And the prize goes to Sunflower

It seems that we all had a hot summer.  Here, in August we had what they call the canicule – the dog days – with the temperatures nearly every day in mid to high 30s  centigrade (95 to 100F).

Throughout June and even July I didn’t mow the area near the beehives.

Beehives at la Bourie

Throughout August and now in September, the grass – well forget the grass – has been a patch of desert.  The more mature trees have decided that they just would rather go into autumn mode and their leaves have turned yellow. Amelia has been watering her precious flowers and smaller shrubs that she has so lovingly nursed, every evening.

We have always enjoyed our daily walks in the countryside around us.  After all, isn’t that the main reason why we settled to rural France?  However, the recent heat wave has meant that most afternoons we had to close the curtains and stay in the relative coolness of the house.  Nevertheless, one walk that we particularly enjoy is to a small lake where Amelia likes to photograph the solitary bees and bumbles.

The lake at Madion

I prefer to just enjoy the peaceful surrounding and look at the waterlilies.

waterlilies at Madion lake

We had practically no rain since June and I was beginning to wonder if there was enough nectar in what was left of the flowers to feed our girls as well as fill the supers with honey.

Last year I found that the change in the self fertilising variety of  sunflowers planted around us meant that the bees could not reach the nectar.

Sunflowers at Virollet

Fortunately, this year the farmers returned to the more traditional seeds which was much more attractive to bees.

Honeybees on sunflower

They do need to dig deep to collect the nectar, but at least there is no need to fly from flower to flower to collect the precious nectar.

Bee collecting nectar from sunflower

Despite the August dryness and the heat we are fortunate to have a lot of gaura around the garden.  Early morning is the best time to see the bees collecting pollen.  By around 8am, they have stripped all the pollen from the flowers.  But, they do return later in the afternoon to collect the nectar.

A bee collecting nectar on gaura

I must not forget the lavender also which has been buzzing with bees, bumbles and butterflies throughout the summer.

A bee on lavender

Our hive Violette suffered most from the afternoon sun.  So, for most of this summer I had to shelter her under a beach umbrella, the violet colour of the umbrella is just coincidental!

Hive Violette sheltered

The bees need plenty of water in summer, mainly to cool their hives.  So right in front of their hives I have placed an inverted bottle to fill a dish with water.  But it seems that they prefer to go to the zinc basin that is usually filled with water for the birds. I have now modified it by placing a large stone in the middle, so that any bees that might fall in can do a bee paddle to safety.

Honeybees drinking water

Our beekeeper friend, Michel recommended that we collect our honey on 19th of August.  We used his extractor once more and Amelia and I were delighted to see that we had actually collected a total of 74.5 Kg (164 pounds) of honey. Each of the hives, including the two divisions of this year (Iris and Pissenlit) had done an excellent job.  But the prize went to Sunflower hive that had produced the most honey.

We collected two different types of honey: the dark coloured honey containing mainly the nectar from the chestnut flowers which are abundant around our house.  We also collected the beautifully yellow honey from the sunflowers.  This year the summer honey is different from last year.  It is slightly granular in constituency, but has a lovely flavour, as it is mixed with wild flowers.

I do feel a bit guilty stealing their precious honey, but I have checked and they do have adequate reserves in their hives and the ivy is just starting to flower.

bee-on-ivy

Ivy is very important allowing the bees to complete their winter stock.  Beekeepers season really starts after the honey collection, when we have to make sure the bees are healthy and ready to go through winter.

– Kourosh

 

 

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23 thoughts on “And the prize goes to Sunflower

    • Thank you. We were certainly pleased with the honey.

      The sunflowers planted last year around us in France, were apparently self fertilising and had a longer flower styles, so the tongue of the poor bees could not reach the lovely nectar. I do not think the harvest was any better. Thankfully this year the farmers planted the older variety. So our honey was dominated by sunflower honey. Beautiful yellow honey with a pleasant flavour. – Kourosh

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  1. How many hives do you have? I think we averaged about 40kg per hive last year but some years it was closer to 10. So much depends on timely rainfall that we beekeepers can do nothing but look heavenward.

    Good luck to the start of your next season. Ours is in full swing with us spotting our first swarm last week (way to high up in a tree next to our apiary). We’ll do a honey harvest next week. It’s full swing in our bee garden.

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    • Good to hear from you again, Laura. Your honey collection is great and makes us almost jealous. Although, as I have no intention of selling honey, it is far more than our needs.

      We started with three hives this year. The original three all swarmed. We made two divisions from one hive. So our honey collection this summer was from five hives. That makes it an average of 15 Kg per hive. This year we collected eleven swarms and gave them all away as I do not wish to keep any more bees. On the whole I understand that because of high mortality and a very dry July and August the honey collection across France has been the lowest for years.

      P.S. Have you finished your next book, yet? – Kourosh

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      • 15 kg per hive is nothing to complain about, especially in a dry year. Either you have way too many friends or your bees gave you plenty to satisfy even the greediest people!

        We don’t expect any honey from a collected swarm in the first year, though some hives surprise us. Some other swarms end up vanishing – either they just leave, or they go queenless and we’ve no idea why. Most swarms hang in there and come to their own in the 2nd year. Like you, we give away most swarms and only keep what we need to fill holes in our apiary.

        What really amazes me is the difference between hives. We have about 25 hives and last year one yielded us 100 kg of honey while another about 3 metres away yielded nothing. There were heaps of bees in both hives but I guess one queen specialised in lazy bees 🙂

        I haven’t written a word in ages – I have a million excuses but the main reason is laziness (like some of my bees :-). How goes your book? I anxiously await the announcement of its publication.

        Cheers,
        Laura

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        • Laura,
          Amelia and I were certainly pleased with our honey harvest this year. More than enough for us, our friends and family. We will take some over to the UK next month for the family and the grandchildren.

          This year all our hives swarmed but all of them including the two divisions (artificial swarms that we made) all performed well and gave us honey. And now the hives are all ten frames full of brood and / or honey. So I hope they will go through winter well.

          You are absolutely right each hive behaves completely different. Last winter when we gave them candy, one did not take it but the greedy one next door finished the 2.5kg candy and moved to the next one. For honey harvest one hive quickly filled one super and moved to a second super whereas the hive next door eventually filled only four out of 9 frames of super.

          Do keep writing please. I have ran out of good read and am waiting for your next book. As for mine, I keep revising and have not found the courage to just say enough is enough.

          Good luck
          Kourosh

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    • Thanks, Emily. Amelia and I were pleased with the honey collection. Both the colour and the flavour is totally different from last year’s honey. We had the yellow sunflower honey and the darker (chestnut and sunflower mixed) honey.

      I do hope that your bees have pulled through well. Kind regards – Kourosh

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    • Thanks. Glad you liked the blog. You are absolutely right. Gaura is a wonderful plant for the bumblebees, the bees, moths and butterflies. It looks nice in the garden and is also pretty as a cut flower mixed with other flowers in a vase.

      Of course one never gets tired of watching water lilies with their delicate flowers. – Kourosh

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  2. Congratulations on your honey harvest.You were luckier than us : we didn’t collect anything from our last hive. (We lost three of them and the last one doesn’t not seem to be very active in spite of a very busy spring…)

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    • Thank you. I still feel that we have had the beginner’s luck.
      I am sorry about your bees, but don’t be discouraged. I do hope that your girls do well and go through winter well for another year of honey collection. – Kourosh

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    • No, the honey harvest is just the icing on the cake of an enjoyable hobby. I have no intention of selling honey. There is much more pleasure in sharing with neighbours and friends. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Just amateur beekeeper and amateur photographer. Or should I say lucky shots. In any case I am so glad you liked the photos. – Kourosh

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    • This was a strange Spring and summer and I understand that in this region there were more swarms than usual.
      I weigh the hives regularly during Autumn and Winter to estimate how much reserve they have. And yes, I place candy (converted sugar) on their hives. Some take it and some don’t. Some girls are just fussy. Aren#t they!!! – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing that interesting link. It is so wonderful that more and more people are learning about the importance of all pollinators.

      We only started keeping honey bees after Amelia became so interested in solitary bees and bumbles. Now our garden is full of all variety of flowers and trees that are attractive to pollinators. As the result the garden is nearly always buzzing with their sound.

      Thanks again for sharing the link and keep counting the bees in NZ. – Kourosh

      Liked by 1 person

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