June  in the Apiary

So…you made it through May!  Swarming and supersedure will still continue during June, but will start to slow down a bit towards the end of the month.  Hopefully you have kept on top of your hive conditions: Is it queenright? Are you keeping an eye out for swarm cells?  In the case of  swarming and of older queens coming through their 2nd season, your colony can run the chance of going queenless.  If such happens, you want to identify the problem as soon as possible to 1) keep numbers building as we go into summer and 2) avoid the development of laying workers.  Swarming urge diminishes as the nectar flow increases.  As the flow is collected, the presence of ‘whitening’ (white wax) can be seen on the tops of the honey frames.

Supering: once the 2nd hive body is in full use (7 or 8 frames of a 10 frame hive), a honey super can be placed onto the 2nd hive body.  Be ready with space BEFORE the rapid growth spurt happens.  To get fatter combs of honey, you can give a little more space to your honey frames.  This means perhaps using 8 or 9 frames instead of 10.  Space carefully.

If you have trouble getting bees up into the super, you can “bait” it by rubbing the frame with some of your own softened (warmed)  beeswax , to encourage drawing out comb, or place drawn comb, or honey and wax smeared frames in the super.  I find it best to not use a queen excluder while comb is being drawn.  Often even afterwards it is not always needed unless you observe it being used for a brood chamber.

Bees need more comb to ripen honey stores than they do to store it, so more space is always better than ‘just enough’ space.

On drawing foundation: There is an art to producing good drawn comb.  It's all about timing.  Comb is produced during a nectar flow, so now is the time to encourage it.  Colonies must be healthy and strong to pull wax.  If the girls do nothing with the foundation you give them for over a week or so, the chances increase that if and when they DO draw it out, it will be of inferior quality.  Old comb (dark, or 3+ years old) is best replaced, so acquiring  fresh usable comb for colony use is always a very good idea.  The month of June is mostly a ‘work till you drop’ month for the bees.  Everything they have worked to set up is now in full swing to bring in the nectar to expand and thrive.  Mite counts and treatments should have already happened if you treat (early spring treatment) to be followed by mite monitoring, and usually a late summer treatment, around the end of July here in Bend). 

Most hives with new queens will be ‘shoulder to the wheel’ occupied in making honey.  Enjoy the time with their sweet industriousness and gentle hum of life and sunshine.  Remember, you are in good company with many other local beekeepers, who are loving this beautiful slice of nature with you here in Central Oregon!

Thanks to Kim Rivera for these notes!!

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