Finally, it happened! I was aimlessly watering the garden when my nostrils caught the first faint whiff floating on the evening breeze. My Italian lineage promptly went into *Lagotto Romagnolo mode and I was off at a trot, nostrils flared while gaining momentum towards my strongest hive “Frida”. Fortunately, I managed to come to a somewhat clumsy halt and was immediately enveloped in that distinct, sweet scent of honey. Once again my bees had worked their little bottoms off right under my nose and seemingly overnight had filled their hives. So there I stood at dusk enjoying a pure olfaction moment with a beatific smile on my face and an intense sense of awe for these amazing little creatures, who ask nothing and give liquid gold.
There is something very satisfying in observing activity outside a hive on a sunny day – hundreds of bees create a melodious hum as they dart in and out of a hive. Even though spring in the Rodney district brought loads of rain and wind, colonies are now more established and the warmer weather means brood numbers have increased. However, the most important aspect of this time of the year is the much awaited “honey flow”.
So what exactly is a honey flow and when does it arrive, I hear you mutter? Well, to start with, it should really be called a “nectar flow” as it is the time of the year when suitable weather conditions together with major sources of nectar provide bees with abundant resources that they then transform into honey. There is no exact date – nature is unpredictable so it is a case of looking for signs within nature and the elements. Remember, too, that the honey flow is not just about standing around smiling. It is a time to be a vigilant beekeeper as a good honey flow represents a rapid increase in the amount of space bees need within the hive so be aware and add boxes if required. This offers bees more space for the extra honey and also reduces the chances of swarming.
A good tip I learnt for prolonging the nectar flow for bees is to plant in a staggered manner in order to create a garden of flowers, plants and vegetables with a good nectar source throughout the seasons, not only in summer. Also, never leave the watering hose pipe ‘on’ when you trot off on your olfaction quests – you will end up drowning the zucchini and will find the lettuce floating at the bottom of the garden, unwashed! Next month our club night will provide useful advice regarding the honey extraction process and the tools required. We also have extraction gear for hire, so come along and join us at the Warkworth Beekeepers Society.
*Italian dog known as the Lagotto Romagnolo is specifically bred for truffle hunting