Continuing my resolution to be a better beekeeper and bee steward, 2014 marks my fourth season of bee herding and while earning my Apprentice Badge adds a nice bit of flare, beekeeping and stewarding is more about doing than passing a test, a lot like life and career …. There is no GPA in the hives, its pass or pass with “opportunity” for improvement. I don’t think you can really fail. Even if your hives died, your honey was full of bee legs and you got stung on your lucky mole 13 times – you still probably helped educate friends and families about bees, aided in pollination and have frames of honey ready to feed back to your next package in the spring (unless disease took the bees). This year I am only running one hive due to some upcoming “competing commitments”. I might try catching a swarm or splitting a hive this year if the opportunity arises. The In The Hive tasks for Summer (June/July) are all about letting the girls do what they do, keep them and nearby humans safe and make some scholarly observations.
Worker Bee Tasks
- Inspect the Hives: When inspecting on a nice warm sunny afternoon, you should see evidence of the queen laying eggs, bees bringing in pollen and the honey stores building up.
- Watch for grasses, flowers etc growing up and blocking the entrance to the hive. Remove them (I like to do this early in the morning before they are active).
- Take note of brood versus drone cells. Drone cells look like pencil erasers. You do not want a bunch of loafing drones. You need strong female workers to forage and raise brood. You might need replace your queen (or let the hive do it for you) if it looks like she is only laying drones.
Don’t forget to track your activities and observations!
Queen Bee Ideas
- Watch for swarms and booming hives: Activity and colony size pick up in spring and by now your hives should be pretty busy. Swarming is still a risk but perhaps a little less than springtime. Know what your local beekeeping organization has available as resources. In my neck of the woods, PSBA has a helpful page with a call list, tips and talking points (e.g. the bees aren’t angry).
- Do not panic if you see lots of bees covering the outside of the hive. They are probably just hot and helping to regulate the hive temperature.
- Know what nectars and pollens are available: Not all flowers and other plants produce nectar and the weather, especially Seattle rain, can often make it hard for the forager bees to get out – remember Junuary, although for sure there is a much greater variety of flowers and plants this time of year. My lavender is in full swing but just like the past years, the honeybees do not frequent it, only the bumbles…. Here is what the science says about this, other than we don’t live in Provence. Sigh.
You have to eat, so make a honey recipe. Here is one of my most recent experiments.
- Attend your local beekeeping organization meeting. Great way to stay on top of the bee season.
Busy time of year for beeks!
- Make a simple Bee Waterer: just place some marbles in a dish and fill with water (picture below). The bees will be able to land on the marbles and drink, without drowning. You can use rocks and sticks as well.
- I hope you celebrated National Pollinator Week! It is never too late and I try to celebrate them every week. If you are even the tiniest bit politically inclined there are several government actions recently set in motion to save the pollinators. Learn about them, maybe sign in support.
- Enjoy this quick video of a honey bee emerging from its cell.
Remember that while the Summer Solstice is the beginning of summer it is in a way the beginning of the end of bee season……
A swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay; A swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon; A swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly.