‘Why would you want to?’ says you. Well the news on the streets is that it’s only a matter of time before it will be announced that research into the health benefits of ivy honey has discovered it to be the best thing since Manuka – I’m serious. Click here for more about ivy honey.
However, taking a crop of ivy honey is problematic for several reasons:
It sets in the comb even more quickly than rape honey so is difficult to extract;
It is the last honey flow of the season and the bees build up on it and rely on it for their winter stores;
By the time you take it off it could be too late to feed before winter sets in.
There was a great flow this May (2014) and there is a heavy crop of hawthorn honey on board – a once in 5 year occurrence in these parts. Hawthorn pollen is a pale cream colour but you’ll know if you’ve got hawthorn honey because you will smell it!
Here’s a photo of a hawthorn bee with pollen, click it for a better view
When there is this much honey from an early flow it’s best to take at least some of it off if only to spare the beekeeper’s back. Take only the sealed honey if possible, that way you’ll leave some for the bees in the June gap.
If, however, you suspect there may be rape in amongst it – you have no choice – you will have to take the lot off. If they have no feed below you should rapid feed a gallon or so of strong syrup but take the supers off first or they’ll put it in there.
Alternatively you could place a lump of fondant or better still Ambrosia (special bee fondant made with inverted sugar) over the feed hole. They won’t put this in the supers but if they need it – it’s there and it will also pull the bees straight up in to the supers which might help prevent overcrowding → swarming etc.
Between the showers, the sun is very strong and the the sycamores are alive with bees. One of the good things about sycamore flowers is that they hang down beneath the leaves in the shelter of the canopy so showers don’t really harm them. However, gusty squalls will tear off the flowering panicles – lovely.
The forecast for the next few days is good, so with the trees in full bloom there is a good chance of a few pounds of honey.
The dandelion season is almost over in most places but up here, on this chilly hill, they are still very much in flower which is nice for us and for the bees.
They are out working away in every patch of sunshine and this picture shows the colour of the pollen loads – a much stronger yellow than willow or rape. Inside the hives, everything is bright yellow with dandelion pollen. A little honey is appearing in the supers, it is very yellow quick to granulate and has a bit of a bitter aftertaste but the smell around the hives is wonderful – sort of waxy and musky.
Like it or loath it – the wild garlic comes up like a green tide each spring. Personally, I like it. It’s a lovely pungent addition to salads and it makes a great pesto.
There are several species of wild garlic all of which are closely related to the garlic we buy in the shops (Allium sativum). Only 3 members of the garlic family are resident in Ireland, only two are of interest to the bees and only one is a true native but all of them are edible.
Ramsons or Allium ursinum or ‘Bear garlic’- native Irish plant (see header photo above)
Three Cornered Leek or Allium triquetrum – probably introduced from Europe 3 hundred years ago (photo below)
The bees visit both species although it’s nothing they’ll ever get a crop from, which is probably just as well.
Pollen loads are yellow as displayed by this very obliging, if slightly fuzzy, bumble bee seen here on some Three Cornered Leek or Allium triquetrum. Click it for a better view.
Here’s an interesting photograph – the bee in the photo above is being hoisted aloft inside a gorse flower (Ulex europaeus) by the spring-loaded pollination-paraphernalia. Note the brownish orange pollen load.
Crocuses are only just opening now but should be open every sunny day from now until mid-March. The bees won’t get honey from these but fresh pollen at this time of the year is important as it will give them all a bit of a boost and help get the queen laying. Continue reading Crocus Bees→
The garden heathers are in bloom now and the bees are all over them whenever the weather allows. These are not to be confused with the Ling heather (Calluna vulgaris) we see on the hills in the late summer – they are all Erica species, mostly varieties of Erica carnea or E.cinerea. Erica specialists please correct me here. Continue reading Garden Heathers→