Keeping Bees in July
The Honey Flow from blackberries is on and will last most of the month. Don’t use entrance reducers unless you have a reason. (Weak hive? Yellow jackets?) Swarming is much less likely now. All the bees are thinking about is getting that nectar in for winter.
The colony that was gentle a month ago is significantly less gentle now. Smoke doesn’t always make the difference it used to make. It’s because there are so many more bees now than there were and they have honey to defend. It’s no longer okay to go in and look at every frame admiring the brood pattern. If you think they look unfriendly, I’ve been straining powdered sugar over the frames in boxes overflowing with bees before I take the first frame out.
Have a purpose, go in and get out. You don’t need to go all the way to the bottom box. The purpose should be
1.) Do I have a laying queen?
No? Do I buy a queen, add a frame with queen cells, or merge the colony with another?
2.) Does she have room to lay?
No? Add a box. If there are enough bees to keep the brood warm, checkerboard the newly added frames with the pre-existing frames.
3.) Is there enough room for the unborn capped brood to move around when they are born?
No? Add a box. Do I need a deep or should I use a medium?
4.) Do I need another super? Always add one before you need it. Unlike adding brood boxes too soon, you do no harm by adding honey supers before the prior one is mostly filled. If the frames in the super are drawn out, put only nine frames in a ten frame box.
5.) Is there brood in my honey super?
Yes? If you want to extract the honey from this super, shake all the bees into the box below it and put on a metal queen excluder. Nurse bees will go up to take care of the brood but the queen won’t be able to lay any more eggs there. The bees will fill the cells were the brood was with honey.
6.) I may have lots of nectar but do I have any bee bread/pollen?
No? Consider adding a part of a pollen patty. The goal is no longer to get the queen to lay lots and lots of brood. When the flow is over they will be consuming the stored nectar.
7.) Is all the brood in the hive drone brood?
Yes? Bad. You have either a queen that was poorly mated or you have a laying worker. Almost impossible to correct this problem.
8.) Are there no eggs, larva, or capped brood?
Yes? Are there enough bees to try to save the colony. If yes, buy a queen.
No? Combine colony with another. Don’t combine weak colonies. Combine a weak with a strong.
9. ) Put in a clean bottom board for 24 to 36 hours. Check to see if varroa count is small, medium, or large. If large, the only option for treating varroa with brood present and honey supers on is Formic Pro. Check directions.
10.) After the Flow is a good time to split large colonies. Decide if you need to do that and get everything ready.
11.) Update your notes. Date and record all observations, questions, etc.