Exclusive Advice with Beekeeper Kasper

The summer honey flow in Devon started by the end of last month. We have had a few days of warm and sunny weather which has allowed the bees to bring in a fair amount of nectar to the hives. We did have a week or so of rain which was much needed as the ground was getting pretty dry. Bees are collecting nectar from clover and bramble mainly, but we also have lots of rosebay willowherb and other plants in our Devon hedgerows out in flower in July.

At the NBS apiary, I am still inspecting colonies for swarm control. Swarming season is coming to an end but keep your eyes open until around mid-July for swarm cells. I am also adding extra honey supers to make sure bees will have plenty of space for nectar. I am re-queening any hives with old queens which aren’t very productive anymore – this will prevent us from having weak hives in the apiary.

July isn’t too late to make some splits. I make my splits using at least 3 frames of sealed brood with bees and a frame with pollen and honey. I place all these frames in a nuc box with a mated queen in a cage and move the nuc box to an apiary at least 3 of miles away from the site I removed the brood from. You will need to return to the nuc after two or three days to check it for emergency queen cells, removing them all, and opening the queen cage so the bees can eat through the fondant and release the queen. Brood for making one nuc can be taken from two or three different hives, so we do not weaken one colony by taking three frames of brood away.

If you don’t have another apiary site you can create a nuc by shaking the bees off of three frames with dark capped brood (ready to hatch) and moving them into the middle of a separate brood chamber above a queen excluder, and place this on the brood chamber you removed the frames from filling any gaps with extra frames. Leave for a day or two to allow the nurse bees to migrate up onto the frames and then create your nuc as above. Hopefully, this procedure will ensure you retain plenty of bees in the nuc box without them returning to the parent hive.

I have been using our CO2 varroa checker at NBS apiary to see how many Varroa mites there are in the hives. It’s very simple to use, you can follow the instructions (scroll below) or watch our new tutorial video.

We are lucky and we haven’t found many varroa mites in the hives which means we can carry on with the honey harvest, and once this is over, we will start our autumn treatment. If you find your hive has got lots of varroa mites you should act now.

Varroa Checker Instructions:

  1. Assembly of the dispenser
    1. To assemble the CO2 dispenser correctly, it is important that the CO2 cartridge is screwed properly onto the dispenser head.
    2. When the CO2 cartridge is securely in place, the removable lower part of the dispenser can be reconnected with the upper part that holds the cartridge.
  2. Operating instructions
    1. Collect 200 bees from the brood chamber and pour them into the varroa tester. Avoid catching the queen! Then quickly mount the lid. (The bees should be poured into the compartment with the small hole. The red rings on the varroa tester show the necessary level of the bees needed).
    2. This step involves adding CO2 to the cylinder. Turn the cylinder so that the chamber with the bees is at the bottom, and then insert the CO2 cartridge through the small hole. Turn on the gas for 4-6 seconds and then wait an additional 10-20 seconds. (Ensure both lids are mounted on the varroa tester before adding CO2)
    3. After the bees have been paralyzed, shake the varroa tester gently for 10 seconds.
    4. The varroa mites will have fallen down under the grid. Proceed to count the varroa mites. Depending on the level of varroa mites it can be estimated whether or not treatment is needed.
    5. Open the lid so fresh air can get into the bees. The bees will slowly wake up and can then be poured back into the hive.

Treatment schedule:

  1. Cleaning instructions
    1. After use, clean the lid where the varroa mites fall down. Periodically wash the varroa tester in warm water with a detergent.

July Honey Recipe by Gill Meller:

Looking for a tasty new summer dish? Gill Meller shares another delicious recipe;

I was invited to the Arctic Circle in the autumn, walking in the hills, cooking by the ocean, before the snow came and the cod left. Blueberries grow wild everywhere. They were smaller than I imagined, but honeyed with good skin. They grow low, so you have to kneel down to pick them, next to white moss and mushrooms. When you stand up again your knees are blue with juice. I didn’t come up with this combination then – it was earlier in the summer, at home when our lavender was in flower. It’s worth growing lavender for.

Blueberry, Honey and Lavender Mess

Author: Gill Meller


  • 200g (7oz) Blueberries
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 3–4 Lavender heads, plus extra petals to serve
  • 150ml (5FL OZ) Double cream
  • About 20g (¾oz) or 4 meringues, broken into pieces


  • Place the blueberries in a medium pan with 1 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of the honey and the petals from the lavender heads. Set the pan over a medium heat and bring the mixture up to the simmer. Cook the blueberries for 3–4 minutes, or until they are just beginning to soften and collapse. Remove the fruit compote from the heat and allow it to cool, then transfer to the fridge to chill.
  • When you’re ready to serve, whip the cream with the remaining honey until it holds soft peaks. Fold in the broken meringue pieces along with the blueberry compote, but take care not to over-mix – you want a nice rippling effect. Spoon the mess into 4 small bowls or glasses. Sprinkle each serving with a few lavender petals before eating.

Order Gill’s Time Cookbook for more recipes or follow @gill.meller on Instagram.

Photography: Andrew Montgomery


Header image by Ailia Ashworth