By Kathy Cox
Have you recognized the dearth in the apiary? Are your bees louder? Are they agitated? Are they aggressive? Are they protecting their resources? Do you have robbing going on? This is typical after the blackberry flow and before the knotweed blooms. Your bees can starve in 5 days without supplemental feeding. Feed 1:1 syrup, which mimics nectar. Give them a pollen patty, too. Both nectar and pollen dry up, so they need both the carbohydrate and protein supplements. You have got them this far, so don’t stop caring for them now. Make sure they have water sources, too. This is not only for drinking, but to help cool the hive through evaporation.
If the lowest box is just nectar and pollen, you can reverse the boxes, putting that box on top of the brood area. If you have weak hives, you can take a frame or two of capped brood and the attached bees from your stronger hive and spray both the frame and where you are placing it in the weak hive with sugar water and add the frames to equalize the hives. There is less of a chance of robbing when the hives are about the same population.
Have you done a mite wash yet?
Have you pulled your blackberry honey? You can give the extracted frames back to the hives to clean up and refill. I had robbing occur when I did that years ago, so I always put those frames far away from the apiary for the bees to forage on. You wind up feeding bumble bees, too, so that is a good thing for the pollinators!
It won’t be long before the drones are being kicked out! The girls don’t want to share the resources with the boys over winter, so they kick them out often stinging them to death. This is a normal part of beekeeping, so don’t be surprised if you see this.
If you see multiple eggs on the sides of cells, you most likely have laying workers. This happens after 3 weeks when a queen dies, or she runs out of sperm. There are several ways of dealing with this, so google it and learn about it before it happens to you.
I hope you are keeping a notebook. It is important to know who produced honey, which hive overwintered, who has the gentle bees. Next year you may want to increase your hives. It is important to record the information, which will help you determine who to breed from.
Winter is a good time to catch up on reading. Time to order your material. I recommend Beekeeping for Dummies and the Beekeepers’ Handbook by Diane Sammataro. It is always great to have a go to website that you can trust. (I find so much BAD info on YouTube) Randy Oliver’s Scientific Beekeeping is great. If you haven’t checked it out, you should. He has a great chart on mite build up. An old, deceased friend of mine, Dave Cushman, has a very large site. It used to be the largest on the web. It may still be. Rusty Barlew has a site called Honey Bee Suite. She is a local beekeeper. Google and learn when you can’t get out to play with your bees. Mentors love to help you, but they expect you to research a topic before you ask questions. Bee a smart beekeeper and read to gain a background on your question before you ask questions. Your neighborhood Captains will appreciate your doing so.
Speaking of YouTube, a newbee told me of a hack that has proved to be fantastic. If you have the type of hive top feeder that has a round area that the bees come up in to get to the feed, you may find a bunch of drowned bees in the lower syrup area. Cut up a sock so that you have a round section that fits the cone from syrup to opening and make sure it is down in the syrup area and comes up to the top of the cone for the bees. They will not go down into the syrup area, but feed on the wicked up syrup and not drown!
I hope you are finding these monthly missives helpful. Keep cool. Have a great summer and take good care of your bees.
Master Beekeeper, U of Montana