Periods of honey-bearing flora, and beekeeping operations throughout the year

Every place has its own climatic conditions unique to the area, melliferous flora and other peculiarities to which a beekeeper adapts, while they pursue the successive florescence of interest.

The single most concern of ours throughout the entire year of beekeeping is the efflorescence of thyme. The honey bees

overwinter in the gorge of Deliana in Kissamos, Crete, a semi-mountainous region where they stay until the end of May. There, there is a rich spring- and summertime fusion of sage, false dittany, pennyroyal, thyme, cistus, savoury and others.

At the beginning of June the strongest of the colony are transported to Rodopos, on the Spatha Peninsula, and to Koustoyerako, in Selino, both locations in western Crete and areas well-known for their thyme.

Koustoyerako, whose name recalls images of being escorted by hawks—from the Greek word ‘yeraki’—is a village directly below the southwest corner of the White Mountains with a rich history of resistance against successive invading armies, and whose residents are a proud people.

Towards the end of June the first harvest of thyme honey takes place, which constitutes the main harvest of the year.

Production per hive is generally modest and entirely dependent on weather conditions, and, as we do not feed the bees during blooming periods, the quality, taste and fragrance of the honey are pure and unadulterated.

The colony from Rodopos is thereafter transported to the upland plateau of Omalos, close to where the Samaria Gorge begins. There they remain for about one month, benefitting from the late flowering of thyme, wild marjoram, mountain tea and white thyme, the latter being a rare species of thyme that grows on the precipitous peaks of the White Mountains.

The second harvest of thyme honey is even lower in yield than the first, given the high altitude at which the bees work (between 1100 and 2500 metres), the substantially cooler climate and the strong winds that can decimate the foraging bees as they go about their work.

Followinga second harvest of thyme, the bees are transported to Palaia Roumata to regroup amongst the autumnal florescence of wild asparagus, rough bindweed, common ivy, autumn heather and carob. There they remain until they again create new bee populations and are able to successfully overwinter.

If it rains early enough, a phenomenon rare enough on Crete, and there happens to be flourishing autumn heather, we may harvest a third round—of heather honey—and thus be able to produce autumnal queens and effect colony division—divide (or split) the colony.

Following a small harvest of autumnal honey at the end of November, when we take only what is left over from the hives, we perform the last transfer of the beekeeping year, returning the colony to the Deliana Gorge in Kissamos to overwinter.

The treatment interventions for varroa acariasis are carried out at the end of December, when the beehives are rid of their brood. The varroa mite is exposed to the treatment substance, and by the next harvest, many months will have passed so that any residual effects from the treatment are avoidedand our honey remains pure.

I practice only organic methods of reducing the varroa mite population throughout the beekeeping year; principally, by trapping the varroa in drone brood frames, which I take out and destroy every so often.

Furthermore, I never use antibiotics on the bees: through research I have createdmy own methodology of using active microorganisms as a preventive treatment throughout all beekeeping operations.