You said in your newsletter that this is the time that beekeepers are busy. But I am not busy—why? What should I be doing?

Q: Hello to all of you at Kelley Company who make it happen. I have two questions. But first, I would like to say how wonderful and exciting your newsletter is to me. That thing is beyond description. I am a beekeeper, one year May 2012. I have one hive and one swarm that I just caught. You said in your newsletter that this is the time that beekeepers are busy. But I am not busy—why? What should I be doing? I have one hive, with two deeps full of honey, and it looks like they’re getting ready to enter the first super. Is this normal? My swarm is pulling comb out, but will it have enough food stored before the season is over?

I have heard of other beekeepers who are already extracting honey. Why am I not? What have I done wrong?

I would like to be a good beekeeper. I keep calling other beekeepers and asking questions. It seems as if everyone does things a little different? Also where are you? I would like to come and see you in action.
T. King, AR

A: We responded to T. when we first received his email, as time was key to his questions. In case there are others of you with similar questions, here’s what we replied:

T., with two hives, you’re right, you’re probably not too busy with bees at this point (this was early June). Early June, in most climates is about hive checks to ensure the brood patterns are respectable, and that you’re giving them plenty of room to work and motivation to grow, while ensuring pests aren’t taking over (beetles, Varroa).

Geographic area has much to do with the colony’s progress, but chances are, a hive getting ready to move to a honey super in June is a good thing. Southern hives are ahead of that; northern hives are, in many cases, just starting to build up their second deep. When the queen fills up several frames of that second box with eggs, and those then become bees, then that hive will be very busy, and you will have to watch to make sure they have room to put all that honey they’ll want to make.

For beekeepers with more hives there’s obviously more to check. Many of us are also doing things like making splits (which you should consider). That’s a lot of fun, and causes a bit more activity for the beekeeper, but more hives provide more resources from which to draw to help all hives.

It sounds like you’re doing one of the best things you can do: talking with other beekeepers in your area. While frustrating, there are few truly right and wrong answers, so experience and shared insights are the best way to figure out what works for you. And of course, reading our newsletter!

(June) is probably a bit early to begin worrying about food for the season, by which I suspect you mean “winter.” The best thing you can do is ensure they have sufficient nutrition to build their numbers for gathering enough to make honey for winter starting around July-August. If conditions are dry, you may need to supplemental feed, for example. Beekeepers who are already extracting honey (in May and June) likely had hives that came through winter strong, and were able to take advantage of the early spring. We’re not all in that lucky boat!

The Walter T. Kelley Company is in Kentucky. Click here for more information on location, hours and tours. We’d love to see you.

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