Beekeeping methods Dark bee Landrace The Driest The Wageningse Eng

The year 2021

Every year is different in beekeeping. This was no different in 2021. Spring started cold and remained cold. Consequently, there was no honey to harvest from the fruit trees. Contrarily to previous years, there were good rains during the summer of 2021. Very good for the Wageningse Eng, which is very drought-prone, as we know from experience.

The summer crop was average. I have to mention, though, that I haven’t migrated the bees to the lime trees this year and no doubt this has had a negative effect on the production.

On the plus side, the heather crop was very favourable this year. Thanks to the good rainfall in July the heather was in great shape. The ancient Dutch skep beekeepers knew that a wet July is a precondition for a good heather honey harvest. Temperatures in August were mild and the weather generally sunny.

Gathering Holland’s finest honey…

The transition of the colonies to the dark bee has been a priority this year. I have produced a fair number of pure-bred black queens, that have mated at the breeding station of Neeltje Jans. This mating station on an artificial island in Zeeland is run by De Duurzame Bij (The Sustainable Bee). There are only pure-bred drone-producing colonies on Neeltje Jans, which guarantees racial purity to a high degree (but maybe not completely).

Some 62% of the young queens I produced this year have been fertilised and went into egg-laying, slightly more than the long-term average. A lot of nuclei had to be produced to accommodate all these virgin queens, which required a lot of bees and hence has gone to the cost of the productivity of the colonies.

All in all, my apiary now has 75% of reasonably pure-bred dark queens. This is slowly becoming quite remarkable for Dutch conditions, for the dark bee is seriously threatened, here as well as in the rest of northern Europe, by continuous hybridisation provoked by introgression of foreign genes. Producing a 100% pure black queen, while at the same time avoiding inbreeding, remains a challenge and will require many more years of arduous selection.