The thing about beekeeping is there’s always something to do and something to learn.
In the Spring the chores and responding to situations can get overwhelming but with our eyes on the approaching end of the nectar flow, we try to maximize the time we have remaining with nature’s help.
Now we enter dearth period. For most this is definitely not as appealing as Spring when nature offered up its bounty of nectar to support our efforts. One thing that beekeeping has taught me well is to stay ahead of the needs of the hive. Knowing what comes next is what makes us beekeepers rather than beehavers. The bees themselves are on schedule and living in the now. We must pave the way to make their now a success.
So, keywords for summer are: pest control, and food management.
Pest Control is all about staying ahead of the problem. Primarily we have varroa, small hive beetles, and wax moths.
Varroa is undoubtedly the most deadly and difficult management problem. Deadly because the mites are vectors for deadly viri which will decimate your colony. Difficult largely because 1) they aren’t very visible and 2) you don’t get much of any warning before collapse occurs. I’ve used the analogy of a flu virus going rampant through a college dormitory when talking to others and that seems to be mostly accurate – one day someone has a cough and fever; the next day everyone in the dorm is bedridden with symptoms. Your method of dealing with varroa is a decision you’ll have to make. At a minimum you might simply want to start with a mite count using the sticky board method, sugar shake, alcohol wash, or ether roll and go from there. I know a number of beekeepers who pull their honey off and then proceed to treat using one of the many treatment options. Timing can be key with many treatments as some treatments have temperature restrictions. For South Carolina that may mean waiting too long takes some of the treatment options off the table.
Small hive beetles are another summer pest that you will want to get ahead of. These little pests will multiple inside your hive and destroy the food stores of the colony. I have seen them run a colony out of a hive (abscond) due to pest pressure. And I’ve seen colonies fail to progress due to beetles taxing the resources of the colony. I’ve also seen a colony recover and thrive once the beetles are under control. But don’t wait for a situation to develop before getting them under control. Now is the time to use one or more methods to keep them in check: place oil traps, barriers, and / or dry microfiber pads before the situation develops. Get ahead of the problem and there will not be a problem.
Wax moths are a management problem. They are opportunists looking for a weakened hive in which to run amuck. The solution is simply to keep your hive strong. Easier said than done you might say. But “strong” doesn’t mean maintaining a six box high hive full of bees. It means managing your hive such that they are strong with the boxes they have. I look at my hives daily and if I see a hive declining in population (maybe no bees at the entrance) I look inside with the idea a box needs to come off. Push your bees into a smaller space such that there are always a few bees standing around the entrance. This is what is meant by keeping a hive “strong enough” to defend itself.
Food management: The other big management goal during summer is food management.
In class we covered the ideal hive configuration size going into winter as approximately the size of 2 ten frame deeps OR a single ten frame deep + a medium. I have a friend that configures for winter with a ten frame deep and a shallow and he does just fine in our South Carolina winters.
Depending on when you acquired your bees this year you may have already satisfied this goal. Some will have more than they need already and they can relax a bit and let the bees consume some of their stores. Others may still need to feed their bees to get to this goal or to encourage more comb building. You’ll have to figure out where you are with your goals and manage accordingly by feeding if needed or pulling some off now for use later in the fall or winter, or otherwise managing the hive so that you begin working through your management techniques, towards the ideal size I mention above.
In closing, the above is my opinion based on what I have been taught by my mentors, read, experienced, failed at, and found success with while managing my bees. Your opinions and results may vary from mine. That’s okay.