|Manuka just starting to flower in spring|
The manuka is starting to flower! That's here in Auckland. In Northland it is partly over, not been a great season for them apparently as it was quite wet this spring. And further south, the trees will still be budding up.
But right here, we've got about 6 weeks of lovely manuka flowers for our bees to go out foraging on, to make high grade manuka honey. This is called the Honey Flow.
How to tell when the honey flow is starting?
How do you identify when the nectar is ready and the bees are starting to make honey?
There are 4 things to look for:
1. The bees are out and about, on the flowers, and they are non-aggressive
2. The entrance to the hive is very active with bees
3. They are building white wax in the hive, which will become the honey comb
4. If you tip a frame up, fresh nectar will drip out
Why timing your bee build up is so important
It's important to get the timing of the bee colony numbers build up just right.
If the bees build up too quickly, and are at peak before the honey flow, they may starve (and die).
If they build up too slowly, then once the nectar starts, there will not be enough bees to maximise nectar collection and honey production and the beekeeper will miss the honey flow, and have a poor harvest.
It they build up too quickly, they are likely to swarm. And you lose half your bees to some distant tree.
You want a large population of workers old enough to forage for nectar right as the honey flow starts. How many is 'large'? Enough bees to fully occupy more than 1 brood box.
How to take advantage of the honey flow
There are quite a few more steps to ensure you have a good harvest:
1. What size hive is best? Lots of small ones? A few big ones?
2. When do you add honey supers (the boxes that go on the top of the hive that get filled with honey)? How many honey supers should you add at a time?
3. How often do you need to check the hives?
4. What type of frames should you add? - drawn comb frames or foundation? - this means frames already with the honey comb on them (drawn), or frames where the bees build their own comb (foundation). This will have a definite impact on your harvest.
To read more about these issues, visit the full post here at Business of Bees.