English Home


 Rusty Wise, UK




The first part


The second part

It‘s winter now in the UK, a quiet time for beekeepers and bees. The honey shed is clean and tidy, any sticky residue long washed away and the supers and spare brood boxes blow torched and treated with preservative.

A time for beekeepers to tell stories!


I treated the bees with Bavarol, against Varroa in late summer, removed the strips six weeks later and tucked them up ready for the big freeze…. They have been flying almost everyday since, a mild Autumn thanks to global warming has resulted in my worry being, will they have enough stores to last the winter, instead of will they survive the cold.

Spring comes earlier these days too, the bees are out visiting the crocus and catkins early in March, and at last a new bee year begins.

I live in an area called the Vale of York in the North of England a very wide valley, bordered by the high Pennines in the west and the North York Moors to the north and the historic city of York to southeast. A land of rich glacial deposits, excellent agricultural land.

A major crop grown by local farmers is Oil Seed Rape, and when it flowers in April/May the air is heavy with the scent, you can almost taste the nectar on the breeze. I love it; the bees love it- hay fever suffers hate it.

Everything has to be ready for the early honey flow, because when it starts-

It really starts! The hives can be loaded on a trailer and taken to the fields, but in my case the crops are just the other side of the fence, and my bees fly!


Oh! How they FLY!

I put two or three supers on right away, and as the lowest one fills I remove it, extract the honey and replace it on top.

This has to been done weekly as the honey sets very quickly and then can only be removed by heating, or by the bees. The Rape continues to flower for nearly two months, and at the end of that time most bee keepers hate the crop too, as they enjoy their honey and paracetamol sandwiches and rub aching arms and backs!

In a good year the crop of honey can be huge, but there is a price to pay, Bees love the yellow flower so much they will fly over clover and other flowers to reach it, so there is a shortage of the lovely old fashioned honey flavours, unless the hives are sited well away from a Rape growing area.

Once the Rape flower starts to go off. I have always noticed a change in the bee’s temperament. My lovely, calm, hard working little insects become raging little monsters, buzzing a warning as soon as I look near. A “wise” beekeeper leaves them alone for a week or so, till they settle down and find other flowers to visit.

May and June is swarm time, and no matter how careful I am there is always one queen cell I miss-where was it hiding?? I reap great satisfaction from catching a swarm and re hiving it; within the space of an hour I have yet another colony, and this can happen several times during the season…wonderful!
The bees continue visiting flowers in fields and gardens while I am busily preparing for the heather honey flow. New honey frames have to be made with wireless foundation, at least two supers for every hive; I am still extracting honey and storing it in buckets or bottling it ready for sale.
People come to my door, many of them tourists enjoying a week in Yorkshire, I try to spend a little time with them explaining about the bees as well as selling them the produce of my little apiary.