Beekeeping Tips for July
by Todd Balsiger
- Unless you're near a commercial crop or at higher elevations, the summer nectar dearth begins about mid July (maybe August 1st this year). At this time we should be thinking about nest consolidation and honey harvest.
- In late summer we crowd the bees. We begin this in earnest in August along with mite treatments, but for now don't leave extra supers on colonies light on stores. Also, avoid having extra supers on colonies as the nectar flow tapers off as this leads to half-filled frames --an inconvenience at harvest time.
- As usual, keep an eye out for colony health. Any colony not keeping up with its peers needs to be inspected to make sure it is queen-right and healthy.
- Requeen any colony with undesirable characteristics such as poor production, European foulbrood (not AFB), poor brood pattern, mean temper, etc.
- Queenless hives are a real problem and need to be either requeened with a nuc or retired. Typically, queenless hives have an abundance of pollen stored in multiple frames (no brood to feed). This condition typically is followed by the development of laying workers. Signs of laying workers are multiple eggs per cell, eggs on the side of cells (opposed to one egg centered on the bottom), and drone brood development in worker cells. If requeening, always place the nuc in the top brood box and to one side (easier to defend). You may want to reverse brood boxes first as there may be fewer bees in the lower box (again, easier to defend). If you retire the hive, shake the bees out and share the frames with other hives - the workers will perceive the eggs as foreign and unwanted and will eat them. After the drones hatch from the elongated worker cells, the workers will cut the cells back to their regular length.
- Keep on the lookout for American foulbrood as robbing season is imminent and AFB infected colonies make easy targets. AFB is highly infectious and early detection is important in its control.
- Remove and extract supers. Honey removed in late July will have less moisture content than honey in June, so you do not have to be as judicious about making sure that all cells are capped. Moreover, in late season the nectar flow can end, and the bees will be unable to cap the honey cells even though they are ready (sufficiently dehydrated). As a general rule you can always check the moisture content and ripeness of honey in a given frame by shaking it hard downward and seeing if nectar falls out. If a shower of nectar falls out, then that frame was not ready.
- Be prepared to do the most important treatments of the year for your hive in early August: Varroa mite and foulbrood treatment, and reducing hives down to winter configuration.