Hello Beeks! As we enter the summer months, our bees are a bit on autopilot right now. We pretty much know if our hives swarmed or not, are queenless or not, are producing well or not and so on. We are reaching peak populations in the coming months of which will start to decline end of August into September; more on that later.
As your Queen Bee is laying and populations are increasing while we are simultaneously in the honey flow, we should be making sure our hives are not honey bound. Whether you have a new hive that is building comb, or an established hive with drawn comb, we want to make sure that the bees aren't filling every nook and cranny with honey, which then leaves no room for the queen to lay her eggs and expand the population. If this occurs, the hive might swarm, the queen may just abscond or your hive may just be at a standstill. For new beekeepers it is difficult to know how much we should be inspecting our hives. Too much could disturb the balance of the colony, too little and we may be missing out on some clues as to what is taking place. This is why observing from the outside can help us determine what is happening inside. Even a quick peak inside and just removing a few frames may be more beneficial than ripping your entire hive apart for each inspection. We recommend inspecting every 2-3 weeks during peak season to keep an eye on things, but keep your inspections purposeful and as quick as possible with little disturbance. Save those big inspections for deep digging, mite treatments, if you are queenless and so on.
If you are observing each morning from the outside, check if your worker bees are brining in pollen (look for "pollen pants" - chunks of pollen the bees collect and bring into the hive). If they are, that may be a good sign that the Queen is laying and they need the pollen protein source.
Are your bees bearding on the front of the hive? Is this because they need more room, more ventilation, or is it just so hot out that no matter what, they just wanna "chill on the front porch". The hard part about beekeeping, is not one size and answer fits all. We also often all have different equipment. Some have screened and ventilated bottom boards, some are solid. This can affect the behavior you are seeing in summer and winter. Taking all aspects of colony maintenance into consideration are key.
When peaking inside you can often tell if all of your comb is drawn and or capped yet. If you are noticing that 90 percent of your comb is capped, you may then want to either add another super or check down below to see how much space is available for the queen. You may want to do both! Also consider if you are using a queen excluder or not. Using a queen excluder keeps your queen confined to a particular area. Keep an eye on how much space she may need.
If your bees are thriving and you are piling on supers, you may be considering extracting honey a little at a time, or waiting until the end of the season to extract everything. Some people swap out a few frames at a time when extracting honey. Some may swap out full supers, and some may just add supers on until the season is over and they pull everything at once. There is no one way to do things, however keeping in mind the space the colony needs to expand as well as timing your honey extraction so that it works for you and your schedule are things to consider ahead of time. Storing honey in the comb without bees protecting it can be a bit of a headache. Often if you do not have time to extract, its best to leave it on the hives instead of pulling a super and leaving it in the workshop for pests to access. Some beekeepers keep a few air tight tubs on hand to store comb in, however the bigger your operation, the more equipment and so on.
As we enter summer and are planning for the next 2-3 months, we also want to consider our mite treatments. Some beekeepers treat 2 to 4 times a year depending on their treatment plans, but the high summer months are a time of year all of us should be treating as the populations of bees are at their peak, which means mite populations are also at their peak. There are many treatments on the table. Some are capable of being used with honey supers still on the hives, some are not. KNOW YOUR TREATMENTS! HAVE A PLAN! Order ahead of time and store properly according to manufacturers instructions. In our Facebook Blooming Beez Club We have a list of all available treatments attached with proper usage instructions for all of them to see what may be best for you. If anyone is in need of this link, please email us and we can send it to you. Instructions for treatments are imperative to follow because the size of your hive, the temperatures at the time you treat, whether you have honey supers on or not, whether you are feeding your bees are not.. and MORE are all things you need to consider and can read about in your instructions manual.
I will go on to say that most of the people we work with seem to gravitate toward Formic Pro Strips and Oxalic Acid Vaporizers. A few other ones hit the top 5 but these are often the most popular we see in our area. We usually see treatments taking place in our area end of July to early September depending on the season. Waiting on a "cool front" often decides for us as many of the treatments recommend taking place when temps are in the 70's and 80's with ventilation for the hive. So at this juncture we are keeping an eye on temps as well as incoming rain. Our temps can be low, but if we get rain and the bees can not ventilate with certain treatments we may want to hold off a week. This is why we recommend being prepared and having a plan, but also having a plan BEE for when nature or life circumstances don't go our way. We want the healthiest bees and colonies entering the fall months and as the populations then start to decline to prepare for winter. More on that later! Please feel free to email us with any questions, photos etc. and we will try and answer your questions as quickly as possible as we know timing is everything! BEE WELL!