As the heat of June continues into July one of the considerations we need to be aware of is to have your colonies a safe water supply nearby. The eminent scientist will tell us they get vital minerals from pools and streams so don’t expect them to use the clean water out of your household taps! My answer to this is to put a couple of bricks in a bucket which I then fill with gravel and water from the rainwater butts – yep I’m sad enough to keep one just for the bees! Initially they won’t go near it until it ‘cultures a bit’ then they land on the gravel and suck away. If you’re lucky enough to have a garden pond, stream or river nearby you will find the bees collecting water around the edge in the dirtiest muddy bit where they can safely land and take off.
If you have Varroa floors they will have plenty of ventilation but those metal roofs do get rather hot, so use one of your carpet squares (normally used to help with insulation in the winter) placed on top will prevent them getting red hot. Or just put a spare roof on top, anything to deflect the heat will help.
Those of you who have been lucky enough to get a honey crop can plan to take this off and bottle a few jars – don’t forget to keep a couple for the Honey Show later on this year!
When putting on Clearer Boards to get the supers off, this is best done in the evening. Please remember to leave an empty super or eke underneath the clearer board so the bees have somewhere to go. I always try to pop up the next morning just in case something has shifted and bees, wasps or other thieving individuals have got access to the supers. It is amazing how quickly an unguarded super can be robbed out putting the entire Apiary on the defensive.
I always put my wet supers back on the hives in the late evening, above the Clearer Board after removing the porter bees escapes so the bees will clean them up and take down any residue into the Brood chamber ready for the winter. Then after a couple of days I will take the supers off and put them into storage I don’t expect any more nectar flows worth putting on supers for if this heat continues into August.
Once we have supers off we need to consider how and if we need to treat the Varroa parasite.
I will have painted all my floor slides white and put them in to see what the mite drop is like and if numerous I will mark each hive with a drawing pin so I know which to treat. You will find that your strongest hives which have given you your best honey crop will probably have the worst infestation of varroa and August/Sept is their peak time for the build-up of their numbers within the colony. What you must not do is ignore this Parasitic problem or they will overwhelm your colony or damage their well-being to such an extent your bees will not survive the long long winter.
Any smaller colonies that have had a break in their own breeding cycle will mean the Varroa have had a break in their own breeding cycle too, so numbers may be manageable and treatment may not be necessary. But please check what you find on your floor slide inserts .
Now the next problem we will face at the end of this month is the increase in the number of Wasps trying to get access to your hives and rob them out. They somehow always find that weak Nuc or the one with the failing Queen or drone layer and once they’ve been successful at one hive you can bet they will try to get into the rest.
So reduce your entrances, put in wooden mouse guards, on the weaker hives and as those of you saw who visited my home Apiary earlier this month, all my Nucs and breeding colonies have small front doors which are easy to defend. If you are feeding Nuc’s or hives with syrup at this time it is imperative you don’t spill any in the Apiary or you can start a feeding frenzy . The damn wasps will find a way into your feeder one way or another especially if you have ill-fitting hives like some of mine. Prevention is always better than trying to cure this issue.
Wasp traps baited away from the hive can keep the worker wasps numbers down, but it is not sensible to put them outside the front door of the hives, as I was taught in my early days in the Craft, as all you are doing is attracting wasps to the hives! Bottles – plastic or glass, or jars with a hole in the lid big enough to let one wasp in at a time work well, the bait needs to not be sweet or you will catch all your own bees. I’ve use a noxious mixture of dark beer/cider and soft fruit which seems to work well but I’m sure you will come up with your own mixture . Any nests you find near the Apiary can be killed using Ant Powder placed around the entrance to their burrow. It’s the same poison they put in the Wasp powder but normally half the price.
At this time of year if I have a really strong colony or two, after I remove the honey and the clean supers for storage I will put them to work drawing Brood combs for next season. I leave on the Queen Excluder, put on a Brood box full of Foundation and feed with sugar syrup until the combs are all drawn out. I then leave this on the colony as winter food or use the sealed combs of sugar syrup to expand the Nuc’s into full Broodboxes with plenty of food for the winter. Either way in the spring I have lovely new frames of drawn Brood comb to use and replace the tatty ones I need to remove and recycle.
Last but not least – the Asian Hornet traps we put on the Association Apiary hives, which you can now record on Bee Base, are working well catching Wax Moths and worker wasps but fortunately no Hornets. I will update on this next month as we prepare for the Asian Hornet week in September when we all put traps out to see what we can find.