The beekeeping season is now well into what is known as the "June gap". The nectar flow from trees which bloomed in the spring and late spring has long since gone, dandelions, raspberries and other high yielding spring flowers are over and we are waiting for the first of the brambles to come into flower. Clover which yields high quality nectar for bees is in bloom but is fickle. The flowers must be short if the honey bee is to work them. Bumbles have longer tongues and can manage the red clover but the honey bee is dependent on the white clover growing on shorter stems. Clover will yield nectar when the temperature reaches 17° or 18°C but not at lower temperatures.

One method of ascertaining whether or not there is a nectar flow from any source is to keep a close eye on the water supply our bees use. If they are collecting water, it shows that they are using up some of the stores in the hives, as the water is used to dilute the honey to a level at which the bees" digestive systems can digest the sugars. At this time of year colonies are still expanding and brood is being fed so the amount of pollen and honey being consumed is appreciable.

The amount of honey stored by bees at the moment varies very much throughout the County and those of us unfortunate enough to have very little must keep a close eye on colonies to ensure that they do not go short, by feeding sugar and water if necessary.

The swarming season is not yet past and correct swarm prevention and control measures must be used. There are roughly 50 000 bees per colony and the queen can lay up to 1500 eggs per day, so the rate of growth can be phenomenal. The bees must be allowed plenty of space for themselves and their honey, so give them supers above a queen excluder, in good time before they need the space.

Keeping young queens, that is, queens under two years of age, heading colonies is one way to reduce the inclination of the bees to swarm. In an effort to provide such young queens, members of Fermanagh Beekeepers" Association have been rearing queens, as has the Association itself. These queens can be used to build up new colonies for those beginning in beekeeping. To get these queens mated, nuclei of bees are made up, using frames of brood from existing colonies and the queen cells are added. This removal of brood is another way to reduce congestion in the colonies.