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And so the tough season begins…

Based on the last two weeks, the nectar flow has dropped substantially in my areas (eastern Henrico and Charles City County.) I have seen a slight increase happen towards the middle of June in the past, but who knows what this Summer has in store. As I write this, we are finally getting some rain, although not the real soakers that I like. Still, hopefully this will prompt the Summer bloomers to be a bit more productive then normal. The clover has gone crazy and continues to bloom everywhere. Queen Anne’s Lace is also going to town now. Hopefully, this will provide a last shot of honey before the real tough season begins.

On the negative experience front, I lost a ton of honey in a robbing situation. I found 4 hives over the last couple of weeks with queen problems. Two of them had gone so long that the foragers had started laying, which is always a nightmare. I have been really lucky with placing a Nuc on the spot where the hive was and moving the main hive 15 feet away (or more). This has allowed me to save the primary force of bees and then, about 5 days later, combining them back with the main hive. This has worked very successfully 3 times already (I’ve had a few queen problems this year, due to all of the daggone swarming!) In my opinion, the foragers for the main hive end up coming back to the queenright Nuc and they combine naturally. Then, after a few days, the Nuc is so strong that combining them with the (now much reduced, since the foragers have moved to the Nuc) original hive is easy.

This past weekend, I did it on two hive and it cost me a ton of honey. Both of the main hives ended up being robbed substantially. I didn’t care so much about the bees (they were laying workers and only a very few nurse bees), but both hives had a lot of frames of honey that I had planned to use for the Winter Nucs. Clearly, with the flow dropping, more bees are testing the defenses of neighboring hives. This strategy is still a good one, as I did save the foragers and ended up with a fine hive building up as it should. But, I need to take the frames of honey in the future, once we get towards the end of May. Live and learn.

The other two hives I caught in time to drop a frame of eggs from one of my better hives into them and are (hopefully) now building new queens.

There are a couple of things that I have come away with from all of this. For one, my feeding will now take the conservative approach. No more feeding outside of the hives. Only feed late in the evening and only open young/weak hives late in the evening. This also means that most of my inspections now start to happen on a monthly basis, as opposed to every other week. I’ll pretty much just check supers and pull a middle frame from the brood nest to insure there is (or at least was recently) a queen. In all honesty, I have so many hives that capped brood is good enough for me. Plus, I don’t like to do full inspections when the nectar flow drops. Too much fighting when other bees are attracted by the smell of honey!

I have also decided that I will buy a voice recorder for my inspections. Most of my queen problems were easily prevented, but I simply neglected to either note it in my journal or, if I did note it (such as, hive swarmed – check for laying queen in 3 weeks), to come back and check at the right time. I have great notes from the last few years, but not as good this year. My Nuc program and trying to keep up with the honey production (as well as wife and 20 month old) have kept me so busy that I have slacked off of this important task. Again, live and learn!

1 comment to And so the tough season begins…

  • I use my iPhone’s voice memo feature during insepctions, I have 2 hives and using paper was impossible for me.

    I also use pillow cases to cover the open boxes during hive inspections. Not only does it keep curious bees out it keeps angry bees in đŸ™‚
    You’ll just need to make sure to have some sort long stick or something to use as a weight when it gets windy. Or just attach some curtain weights to the corners. Hmmm…that’s an idea, why didn’t I think of that before?

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