Happy July! There is an abundance of clover on the ground, but this time of year we start planning for the next phase with our bee feed plan! Questions to ask yourself: How many pounds of honey do I plan to strive for overwintering? Am I taking honey this season at all? If I do feed, what are my options? And so on.. As summer continues we often hit a dearth and dry season where you will see the flow start to diminish. Connect with other beeks in your area to see how the flow is running near you if you aren't sure you see a flow when you inspect your hives.
Remember if you do feed your bees, whichever frames and supers are on during this time period CANNOT be extracted and passed for honey as it is not pure natural nectar. It is fine as a supplement for bees, especially when your colonies are in the building phases of resources, comb etc. Often late season nectar is not ideal for assisting the bees in building out comb, however its a great honey to pack out for winter or to add a “fall super” on to extract some late season honey. Again - what is your overall objective the next three months, always think ahead.
Also keep in mind if you plan to do mite treatments in summer, plan accordingly. Do some research as to which treatments can and can not be used with honey supers on the hive, ideal temperatures to apply treatments, how long different treatments take and so on. This may affect how you execute your late summer/fall plan.
Feed Options! When feeding your bees there is an overwhelming amount of options from liquid feed, solid feed, pollen, sugar, patties, cakes etc. Late summer/fall if you do plan to feed there are recipes you can put together yourself or pre made syrups or additives available for you . Again - what is your objective! Depending on the time of year recipes and syrup consistencies make a difference. Light syrup is often used in early spring and summer to assist bees with building comb and so on. Thicker syrup ratios are used in late summer/fall as we need to allow the bees to dehydrate these syrups into safe moisture content to over winter so the syrups do not ferment or cause other problems in the hive when we can not access the bees in cold temps.
When you feed can also determine HOW you feed. What kind of feeders are you using? Inner hive feeders, outer feeders, top feeders, are you doing an open feed? As we always discuss in the club, there are pros and cons to all of these, depending on the level of beekeeping you are at, how comfortable you are with using feeders and possibly the time of year you are feeding and how many hives. Late Summer/Fall keep in mind we are entering robbing season. And with the climate becoming warmer and warmer each fall without always having a huge fall nectar flow, we want to protect our colonies from robber bees, wasps and predators that are all on the hunt to gather any winter resources they can find. Not only do your feeders make a difference here, but your entrance sizes, your apiary setup in general, consider access to the hives from animals. All little tidbits we can discuss, but for the purpose of this post, we will stick to feeding. It is recommended to use an inner feeder and smaller entrances to your hive in the later season (depending on your population, mite treatment status and weather). Many beekeepers may not have to feed at all! If you have resources built on your colonies and enjoyed the great flow we have been having this year, many beekeepers will wait to extract any honey, be sure the bees have enough honey to overwinter and do not get robbed, and ONLY grab what honey they wish to extract at the very end of season. In this case, some just add a winter candy board for emergency purposes and insurance, and call it a day come late fall. More on this in a few months.
At Beez’ Apiary we have used a multitude of feeding options. We have several levels of hive build up including full sized hives, over-towering hives with honey multiple supers, small nucleus colonies, medium established hives and so on. Our first course of action is to always be assessing the food stores of all our hives. As we keep note of what we have vs. what our goals are, we can do the math to see what needs to be done. Because we have several hives, we are able to use some of the hives as “resource hives” we can pull resources and honey frames from one and add to another to even things out a a bit and help our new hives along and prep for winter. We may also wish to feed a couple of our newer hives or nucs of which we will either choose a thicker syrup recipe or liquid feed. At Beez' Apiary we also like to use a dry pollen sub and a pollen feeder in the dry months to supply proteins for our hives. Remember during this time of year, the Queen is laying and beginning to prepare for winter with "winter bees" who store more fats etc., and we want strong healthy winter bees. More on that in another post.
As far as products go and our shop:
We have been using Pro Sweet Liquid Feed end of season to top off our hives if need be due to its binomial and monomial sugars and nutritional benefits to our bees. The binomial sugars act as the sugars found in natural nectar as the monomial sugars are that of honey. This product also does not ferment or freeze making for easy storage and possibly be available to you later in the season than thick sugar syrup. We are all about “do it yourself” hacks and techniques when it comes to beekeeping as this is NOT a cheap hobby, especially with lumber and hive components where they are here in 2021. After doing the math of buying sugar bags, stirring 5 gallon buckets endlessly, adding a nutrient additive to the buckets, the cost in both ingredients and time/energy has steered us toward this pre made - ready to go syrup. We are also offering a refill program this season with Fanning Bee Farm in Blooming Grove - please see our flier below for more info. We also keep in stock, dry pollen sub in 1 lb containers.
As always we emphasize having a plan, having fun with it, designing your apiary to your ultimate goals while ALWAYS putting the bees and the resources they need FIRST! Understanding bee biology and their needs will allow you to make a multitude of decisions regarding keeping your bees healthy and safe. Contact us with any questions and hope to see you at our next “Blooming Beez” club meeting at Wagon Wheel Farm in Goshen!