By Jerry Przybylski, local bees preferred
Boom times for bees in some areas, and past the boom in others.
Micro-climates in our county vary from cold-coastal in the gap of the golden gate, to nearly central-valley like temperatures at the east end of the county. We hope the May rains will extend our nectar season a little.
This month nectar sources will be winding down. Fruit trees are pollinated, except for citrus which bloom whenever they’re ready. Urban bees will probably fair better than rural bees as long as our neighbors continue to water ornamental plants. Besides managed ornamentals, nectar sources include weeds in open areas, along freeways, and untended yards. Fennel and anise give our honey some spiciness.
There’s still time to split, but it will get more difficult next month. There are plenty of drones for mating now.
The least risky way to split is to split into a nuc. Pick a frame with some eggs, some young larva, and some pupa to transfer to a nuc. Select it from the hive with the best characteristics. (e.g. mite suppression, defensiveness, honey production, inclination to swarm, etc.) Add a frame on either side with pollen and open honey.
Shake in a couple thousand (house) bees, but not the queen, from the donor hive, or from any hive in the yard that can spare house bees. Put one or two drawn brood frames on the outside for insulation value. Park the nuc in a sheltered corner of the yard. Look inside for queen cells four days later. If everything goes well some queen cells may even be capped. A week later queen cells will be ready to emerge. If there are many queen cells, it’s an opportunity to re-queen other hives in the yard by cutting out and transferring them.
The experts say young, well mated queens make for better winter survival.
Leave the nuc undisturbed for about 2 more weeks. By then, if the queen successfully mated, there should be eggs.
The dearth is coming.
Dearth prep starts with narrowing of entrances to “a couple of fingers wide” to make robber defense easier.
Robbers make bees more defensive! Those guards can pick on us!! So, make things easy for them.
The dearth season is our hot season; it’s when hive air conditioning is the greatest challenge for the bees. Insulation on top of the hive reduces the day-time heat load from sun beating down on the cover. Light colored paint on the boxes helps reduce heat buildup. Daytime shade helps too. Screen bottom boards with no slider provide bees with more options for circulating air to cool the hive and dehydrate the nectar. A down-side of screen bottom boards is that SHB larva crawl through the screen to drop to the ground where they burrow in to pupate! A trapping tray helps.
Make sure the bees water source doesn’t run dry any time during the hot weather. Check it regularly. Bees reportedly prefer water with traces of minerals over pure water. So, don’t fret about it.
Harvest frames of honey that are capped or almost completely capped. If you can shake nectar out of a frame, leave it for the bees. They’ll either use the stores later or cap the cells in a few weeks or months.
Spin the honey out of frames promptly!! Don’t give the SHB larva a chance to hatch out and go after it!!
Don’t give the wax moth time to hatch out and start eating through the old comb and pollen stores!!
“Wet frames,” frames with traces of honey left behind after extracting, can be placed between the top super and cover of a hive for the bees to clean out. Remove the frames after a few days, and store in a way that keeps them safe from wax moth larva. (wax moth doesn’t damage white wax.)
It’s time to think about next year. How many colonies do we want next February? Assume some winter losses like everyone else suffers. Start extra colonies this summer so they’re reasonably strong and in good health by October to be ready for winter.
Newbies… Do volunteer to man the booth at the county fair. You know more than most visitors. You learn from the experts there with you sharing the shift. You get a free ticket to the fair too, so check out the other buildings.