Bee Thinking About – For July, 2013
For many beekeepers, July is one of the more rewarding and interesting months in the apiary. The rewards may come via liquid gold if that’s what you’re after, the joy of seeing your splits come fully online, or those pollination checks making your bank balance shine. The “interesting” part is because July is often a month where promise either blossoms, or falls flat as some of the major perils of beekeeping (pests!) roll in, and lay eggs everywhere.
As always, what you need to be considering for your apiary this time of year varies by geographic region, management practices, and the weather. Here are some things to ponder.
A long, cool, drink: You’re probably enjoying many of those this time of the year; your bees desire them as well. Consider leaving a spigot dripping slowly, or keeping fresh water in a nearby bird bath with rocks or sponges for their safe landing.
Feed? Drought is common in many regions of the country. Not only do bees need water, but the plants they need also require water. If there’s insufficient forage, you may need to feed your bees to get them through a dearth (along with ensuring they have water as noted above).
Keep a close eye on even your most booming hives, especially those from which you’ve pulled honey. If you cut down their stores too low and they’re unable to build back up because of weather, they may really suffer. The queen will stop laying if there are insufficient stores.
Mites (growl): We all have them. The trick is to not have too many of them. Combating mites consists of first doing mite counts to determine if there’s a problem, assuming that you will do something with the knowledge. Some beeks don’t do mite counts because they’re not going to do anything about them anyway. Their philosophy is that if the colony isn’t able to successfully keep mites in check then they don’t want to promote those genetics in the bee yard.
If that’s not your management philosophy, and if you’ve determined you have a mite problem, there are a couple tricks you can use this time of year to help knock down the mite population. Unfortunately, like almost everything in beekeeping, opinions vary on their effectiveness. Here are a few weapons:
- Breaking the mite brood cycle, using drone comb or by making splits
- Powdered sugar treatment
Time to split? Yes, Varroa, it is time for you to split. We suspect telling them to do so won’t be that effective though!
When we say “time to split”, we’re referring to making one hive into two. If you have strong hives, and if conditions are right in your area to promote build-up for winter, consider splitting. You can typically combine them again come fall if they don’t work out.
Small hive beetles (SHB): We wish those would also go away, far, far away. See the article in this issue for more thoughts on dealing with these nasty critters. Stay on top of them; left unchecked they’re devastating.
More boxes, or less: Stay ahead of booming colonies with honey supers, and stay atop colonies challenged by pests (SHB, wax moths, etc.) Don’t give them more space than the bees can successfully control.
Pollen production: for many parts of the country, if you raise bees for pollen, it is about time to put on the traps. (See article in this issue.) Order what you need now from Kelley’s.
Make sure those booming colonies don’t overheat. There are lots of ways to assist with air flow, like our practical vent super. Shade may also be helpful in times of extreme heat.
Update the logbook: Remember that logbook? The one all good beekeepers have to track honey production, queen lineage, splits, pest invasion, when to pull the drone comb, etc.? That information will be invaluable when it comes to hive combinations in the fall, and lots of other considerations like requeening, splits, etc. If you haven’t yet started your logbook, (you’re not alone) do it now. Save that brain space for other things, like mental notes to send pictures of your beautiful hives, honey harvest or SHB infestation to the editor of this publication.