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Summer in the apiary

Throughout June the main work in the apiary is adding space (more frames or supering) and swarm controlling. But in periods with bad weather, when the bees don't fly, we may even have to feed them. There is also the so-called 'June gap', a period when the spring flowering is over and before the summer plants have really started. We have to make sure that the bees don't run out of food during that period. Swarms may occur if the bees don't have space enough in the hive, or if there is a new queen emerging from a cell. Then usually the old queen does a runner with about half of her 'staff'. Some swarms are easy to catch, as one of the images is showing, but others can be a real job to get. The worst swarms are the ones high up in a tree with hardly any reachable branches, like e.g. fir trees, or the ones that have found a hollow place, like a crack in a wall or so. If we are lucky to catch the queen, then the whole swarm will follow.

In July the swarming usually drops off, but supering is still very important. The bees collect nectar from all kinds of flower plants and trees. In our area the blueberry is a good source, and of course the heather, in other parts of the country it is possible to obtain pure raspberry honey. But our bees produce the big 'summer mix' and pure heather honey.

From about the 20th of July the heather season starts. The purple heather is the most important source plant for most beekeepers in Norway. Some travel with their hives to areas rich on heather and leave the hives there for as long as the heather flow lasts. Since we live in the middle of such an area, we don't have to move the hives. When the heather flow is as rich as it was in the 2005 season, we could see the bees coming back to the hives with big 'Sainsbury bags' of nectar. We have to watch the development daily, and supering is always necessary. We have had hives with the brood box at the bottom and up to three supers on top of it. 2007 was another great year, and so were 2015 and 2016, but the two years before that we did not have any heather, we got lots of 'summer honey' though.

Depending on the weather, the heather season may last for anything from two to six weeks. In 2005 it even lasted a week into September. In 2009 it never really got started. But when the heather is finally over, there isn't much more that the bees can draw nectar from. Then the queen stops laying eggs, and the colony prepares for the autumn and winter.