Here a synopsis of the year round care required to achieve the top quality honey that is Beara honey.

In September the bees are treated for Varoa mite. This mite , when untreated can wreck havock on a bee colony. We treat with organic Thyme oil for four weeks.
Then we feed the colonies with Sugar sirup to atone for the removal of their winter storage of honey. All honey that they gather after harvest around August 1 is left in the hive and supplements the syrup that we feed them. Each colony takes about 20 Kg of sugar in syrup form to support them through the winter.

The queens lays fewer and fewer eggs as hours of daylight decrease leading to a brood-less period around year end. It is then that the colonies get treated again for Varoa with an organic substance.

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When temperatures decrease a long period of overwintering arrives with little activity. Bees born in October and beyond live to about March. A big difference from their normal 6 weeks lifespan. Bees huddle together in a ball to conserve heat and energy. They move around slowly within the ball to all maintain body temperature. Even frost does not harm them.

Normal hive activity re-starts in January/February as temperatures increase and the queens starts to lay eggs again.
First bee inspections are usually done in March if temperatures allow. Queens are marked for easier identification and weak colonies are combined with stronger ones to achieve better results during the summer. Important to monitor hive weight from now on to make sure they have enough food. Feeding commences when this is not the case.

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During March/April the brood size increases to normal level and the colony expands to achieve maximum strength of around 50,000 bees. The queen lays uo to 1500 eggs a day! The colonies are given extra space by adding one or more honey chambers. The queen is kept down in the brood chamber by a queen excluder through which only worker bees can pass.
Nectar harvesting commences and if the weather gods are favourable there can be a small harvest in May. In my 15 years of beekeeping this happened twice.

From May onwards the hives need to be inspected each week to see if they are healthy and need feeding. Especially June is a dangerous month when not monitoring could mean the loss of a colony to starvation.
This is also the time colonies may decide to swarm to give in to the swarming impulse to satisfy their natural instinct for increase and preservation of the species. Swarming means loosing at least half of the bees in the colony and therefore no honey harvest for that year. Honey gathering is very much a numbers game. A given amount of bees is needed to maintain the broodnest. The more bees the more efficient the nectar can be gathered.
Swarming can be prevented by the beekeeper through the correct handling of the hive but this needs to be done in a timely manner.

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IF all is well the honey can be harvested around August 1.
Each frame needs to be transported minus the bees to the harvesting kitchen where the honey is extracted in a centrifuge. After settling for a day and filtering and more setting the honey is ready to be put into jars.

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Then the whole cycle starts again.

Every year we host and train two volunteers that are interested to learn How to be an independent beekeeper. We had people from France Switzerland and Japan.
If you are interested in this opportunity have a look at our wwoof page or

https://www.wwoof.ie