Section honey is the creme de la creme of honeys.
Good sections command high prices and beekeepers will tell you the reason is that they are hard got. The bees hate to work all those corners and will often swarm instead. Or the weather will turn on you and you’ll be left with a lot of waste.
There is not much you can do about the weather but here are a few things you can consider to maximise your chances. Basically:
- The Hive
- The Bees
- The Forage
- Whether the Weather
In the good old days, double wall hives were more common than they are today – and so were sections. Could they be connected…?
This is a WBC hive:
Here are some benefits of a double walled hive:
- Sections involve a lot of wax-working for the bees and for this they require heat. Double-walled hives such as a CDB or a WBC are, as a consequence, well insulated so perfect for drawing wax.
- The insulating effect of the double walls also helps to keep hives cool.
- WBC hives traditionally painted white adds to the cooling effect; you can stand them in a nice sunny spot without them overheating.
- When sited in a sunny spot, the bees get up nice and early and work long days.
- Fewer bees are needed to keep the brood nest warm and are instead pushed upwards into the section crate or out into the field to forage.
If you don’t have one of these you could use an ordinary hive or better still a polystyrene hive with an insulated section crate and a deep roof. However, both of these hives would be prone to overheating if placed in full sunshine.
The bees need to be as strong as possible under a young and vigorous queen. There are various ways of strengthening a colony but when going for sections don’t do this until you are sure that a spell of good weather is going to coincide with the flowering period of a suitable nectar source such as hawthorn/sycamore or clover/blackberry. If you have rape nearby – wait till it’s gone – rape honey will granulate in your sections.
Here are some ways of building up a colony:
- Add frames of emerging brood from other hives. Use emerging brood so the host colony is not burdened with feeding them. Also hatching brood will leave valuable laying space for your queen.
- Use the Third Box Principle or the Newspaper method and unite two colonies but don’t forget to remove the queen from the weaker of the two colonies.
- Another way of strengthening a colony is to place another strong hive beside your target colony and if a strong flow obliges – move it to the other side so the bees go to your section hive.
Of course the flip side of bulking up a colony is that the congestion will almost certainly cause the bees to swarm so make sure you give them plenty of super space until your flow commences – IF it commences. Don’t do bulk up till a flow looks likely.
When that happens:
- Remove the supers and the queen excluder;
- Place your section crate directly onto the brood box – no excluder;
- Add the crown board equipped with porter bee escapes;
- Add the super or supers of bees covered with a canvas quilt or another crown board to clear the bees down into the section crate;
- Stand back and cross your fingers.
The bees will work sections better without a queen excluder. It is unlikely but always possible that the queen will start to lay into the sections so you might want to put the excluder back once the bees are up and working them.
Perfect sections must contain a honey which is slow to granulate such as hawthorn, clover or better still – ling heather.
Never, ever fill sections with oilseed rape.
Don’t start sections too close to the June gap or you’ll be left high and dry.
Whether the Weather
You will of course need good weather too and you’ll need it to coincide with the local forage. If it doesn’t oblige, you may as well not bother with sections, keep them in supers instead.
So Far …
Here’s how the bees are getting on so far this horrible cold wet spring. Of course they probably won’t cap it all… because this wind is going to flick all the sycamore/hawthorn flowers off then here comes the blithering June gap!
Update – 10th June 2015
The cold weather has held the trees back on this chilly hill. As a result we still have sycamore and hawthorn in bloom here and now we even have weather – set fair all the way till the middle of next week they say. Yesterday the scale hive registered a 7lb gain.
Perfect weather for sections then.
Well yes and no.
Predictably the hive was full of queen cells yesterday. Also, annoyingly – the brood box was stuffed with honey. Why won’t they just stuff the sections and give themselves more space!
So what can I do?
Primitive I know but rightly or wrongly I’ve broken them all down in the hope the bees will stay put for just a few more days and cap the remaining sections.
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