The Kerry Experience
In 2000/2001, the Kerry Association decided to compare the honey crop from various parts of the County, and I fitted a scale hive under one of my colonies as part of the exercise. The weight gains from five areas of the county were broadcast each week on Radio Kerry. This year the experiment continued.
My apiary is in the orchard at the rear of the garden and so I am able to read the weights daily. The house is situated beside the coast and about two fifths of the theoretical forage area consists of ocean. The available forage includes, Sally, Sycamore, Horse-chestnut, fruit (Apple), various weeds e.g. Dandelion, Charlock etc., pasture plants such as clover (white and red), Blackberry, Fuchsia hedges, some Heathers including a small proportion of Ling, and for winter supplies Ivy. This year there was an abundance of Knapweed, thistles and Rose Bay Willowherb.
The 2001 weights started being recorded on the 20th May and showed no weight increase until the 11th June and at the 22nd June 2000 the actual hive weight was the same as on the 9th May 2000. That is to say that the bees seemed to be month behind. This was because, in spite of the heat, rainfall was very low and the plants were secreting no nectar. It needed a period of rain the get the nectar flowing and then the weights increased to give a higher total gain for the year.
In 2000 the period of maximum flow was from the 7th to the 24th July, while in 2001, with the exception of one day when there was a gain of 9½ Kilograms, the flow was more evenly spread.
Of course, it must be realised that the increases in weight is not the honey crop as it includes brood, wax production, changes in moisture content of the timber. Also that raw nectar is about 97% water which has to be evaporated off by the bees to turn it into honey.