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Summer Hive Care

It may be hard to believe, but your hives are preparing for winter RIGHT NOW! But wait, this article is titled “Summer Hive Care” Yep! What you do now will directly affect your bees going into and through winter. That may sound daunting but it’s not really. Following a simple schedule will ensure your bees have the help they need, and they will take care of the rest! To list the “components” of summer care, you have:

  • Varroa Control
  • Nutrition (feeding)
  • Summer Boxes     
  • Keeping Hives Cool
  • Water Sources
  • Managing mean bees
  • Equalizing hives

The points highlighted in blue have been addressed in this issue or previous issues and are linked to take you straight to them. Let's get to the others.

Nutrition

Beyond Varroa control, nutrition tops the list as important intervention required by us. Keeping these few points in mind will make this portion easy.

  • 30 lbs. stored honey in the second deep or 15 lbs. in a single deep – if you have anything less, feed. For those unclear on how to gauge weight of honey in your deep boxes – each frame fully capped front and back weighs approximately 10 lbs.
  • Pollen diversity – as summer heats up, less and less pollen of value will be available for our bees. Feed pollen patties inside the hive to boost health and area-feed dry pollen to continue brood rearing.
  • Water sources will diminish as rain becomes sparse. Provide your bees with a good dependable water source within 50 feet of their hives. Water is required to cool the hive and mix with honey to feed larvae. See “Trickle Feeding”

Summer Boxes

A key factor in beekeeping is to know when to add boxes and when to take them away. Often, we are better at one than the other! It’s common knowledge that we add boxes at the 80% full mark (whether that be brood boxes or honey supers). Most colonies will not require you “add” boxes at this point. Taking boxes away on the other hand can be a bit more complicated! In all reality the exact same 80% rule applies. As population peak turns to population decrease, due to the queen slowing her laying in the summer dearth, we need to take action if we now have too much unused space. If you find the hive has reduced enough to condense down to 1 deep (or 2 if you were at 3), the only frames you would want to eliminate are the “unused” frames - keeping brood in the center and resources to the outside.

Keep in mind you would only do this if your colony has really reduced in size. For the most part, hives sustain their strength if we continue to feed and manage them well.

Managing Mean Bees

This should be a key topic for the August issue so I won’t elaborate…but I will say this – dearth will make colonies grouchy. Period! Other factors are:

  • Hunger
  • Queen issues
  • Too many bees in 1 location
  • Outside aggravation (varmints, weed eaters… etc.)
  • Keep an eye out for the next issue where we dig much deeper into causes and remedies for mean hives.

Equalizing hives

We actually have the opportunity to equalize hives at various times of the year. Depending on what your hive needs, your actions will vary. But regardless, your donor hives need to have Varroa mites under control, be disease free and robust. Otherwise, you could put them in the same position as the needy colony – then where would you be? Right back to where you started!

Equalize Brood

Take a capped brood frame nearing emergence. This would be one of the darkest colored capped brood frames.

  • Shake off the bees and leave them with the donor hive.
  • Insert it left or right of the center of the needy colony.
  • You will obviously have to remove a frame to have room for the new one. As long as the frame is Varroa and disease free you can trade it with the donor hive.

Equalize Bees

  • Choose an “open larvae” (uncapped) brood frame
  • Either shake the nurse bees off at the donor hive or transport them with the frame. If transporting them, shake them off at the entrance to the needy colony but smoke just prior to doing so. These bees will be more readily accepted and go right in and get to work.
  • Repeat up to 3 frames – BUT do so from various healthy hives. You wouldn’t want to stress another hive to help this one.
  • Same applies with the frame(s) you remove as mentioned above.

 

Equalize Honey?

This one is easy… there is most often that over-achiever hive that has plenty of honey frames to share. Simply add to the outside of the brood nest of the needy colony. They will be happy to get it!

Note: Adding new undrawn foundation is fine but consider they will have to draw the comb and non-stop feeding will be needed. Trickle feeding is ideal for this!

Summer is hard on bees… and let’s face it – us too! Keep your bi-weekly hive check timely and act when you see an issue. Test and treat for Varroa if needed and keep feed on your bees until after dearth (at least). With all this – we’ll go into fall with healthy, happy bees!

Fun Fact:

Honey bees use thermoregulation techniques to cool the hive. When the inside hive temperature goes above 95 F bees begin to take up fanning positions around the inside of the hive. In turn, when the temperature goes above 104 F, 30 (thirty) bees go to the landing and begin a fanning party - dividing themselves into quadrants to fan various spaces inside the hive. The warm stale air is replaced with cooler fresh air. Water placed in various locations in the hive plays a very important role in the exchange of air.

 

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