By Gerald Przybylski
Jerry has been an East-Oakland beekeeper since 2011; local bees preferred.
The weather is warming up.
Our bees are still collecting nectar and pollen.
Our colonies are producing plenty of drones.
These are great conditions for splitting hives (or for swarming)!
Well-fed queen larvae produce better queens. Abundant drones facilitate good mating.
New queens this summer produce good population build-ups next January and February.
Colonies with new summer queens have lower winter mortality than colonies with second year queens.
If last year is representative, we can expect ten or more swarm hotline calls per week through August.
So there will be swarms to claim for another two months until the rates drop off.
Swarms are an excellent way to re-queen problem hives.
As summer transitions into the death, it’s OK to offer swarms some syrup to help them get established.
Harvest CAPPED honey. The Uncapped honey that’s so thin that you can shake it out of the comb, hasn’t been processed enough; it could ferment.
Extract honey from combs promptly! Delays can lead to wax-moth larva damaging the comb, and in some cases small-hive-beetle larva causing a slimy, smelly, inedible mess.
If there are too few frames to justify setting up the extractor, just freeze them until later. The top box(es) of a strong, healthy hive is an excellent place to safely store honey frames.
Do harvest honey before it granulates.
Check the brood boxes in your hives for pollen filled frames. One or two mostly-pollen frames per brood box are enough for the bees to sustain themselves until the fall and winter flowers and weed blooms. Redistribute extra pollen frames to hives that need them to survive the dearth.
The queen cannot lay eggs in a box full of pollen frames, nor can the bees story honey in them.
Larvae should look “wet.” If the term is new to you, make note of the appearance now. If larvae are dry during the dearth they are nutrition stressed.
Beekeepers who treat for Varroa are planning to knock down the hive mite populations before the summer dearth to reduce the hive’s stress when bee populations naturally decline (and mite populations don’t). That may mean stocking up now on MAQS or manufacturing oxalic acid impregnated strips or shop-towels for later. Remember to read and follow the instructions distributed with the commercial Varroa treatment product to achieve the best balance of effectiveness, safety, and stress on the bees.
The “Sugar Roll” Varroa assay or the Alcohol Wash is the standard method for measuring Varroa population. Recommended treatment thresholds vary widely.