Based on my own experience, and in talking with others, honey removal places an additional stress on the colonies. And, if you think about it, it does so in several ways. Of course we just took away much of their stores. Often we have taken apart their entire structure and rearranged the order they had created. The scent of torn honey combs may have caused some robbers to investigate which necessitated defense of the colony. Simple removal of a hive body changes the thermodynamics and ventilation characteristics. And on top of it all we have done all this at the beginning of one of the most stressful times of the year – dearth and pest season.
I’ve lost colonies within a month of harvesting in prior years. It may have been because of mites or robbing and simply coincided with harvest but regardless, the stress of harvesting played into their inability to maintain the healthy state they were in prior to my disruption.
So, back to my original question, What have you done for me lately? Or more appropriately, What have you done for your bees lately?
Are you providing ventilation to allow them to cool the hive? Screen bottom boards? Small upper entrances to allow air flow? Popsicle sticks under the outer cover? We know they are working hard to cool the hive as evidenced by water gathering. Are you making it easy for them to gather water?
Are you giving them some syrup to replace some of the stores you took? You might say that you left adequate stores on the hive but would access to a little feeding of light syrup not be welcomed rather than having them gather water and reconstitute honey left on the hive? Remember honey harvest occurs at a peek in colony population and brood rearing and they are consuming lots of carbohydrate while unfortunately nectar flow has just dropped off so they must now take on the additional job of diluting honey and using it to feed the larvae along with all the other tasks.
Are you monitoring for hive beetles? I’ve already found a few in smaller nucs. Stronger hives seem to still have them well managed in my apiary. Soon it will be yet another job for them to guard and corral the SHBs.
Have you made adjustments in the size of your hive? You may need to add a hive body or remove one depending on the colony population.
Assess for mites. I checked my mites in early June to be ready for action after harvest. I’ve already completed my second OAV treatment and can see an increase in the enthusiasm of the bees already as the mite load begins to drop. This management of the mites means the bees can do more for themselves by lowering their stress levels so that they can perform the many other jobs they have to do.
It’s hot outside and it can be difficult to motivate yourself to get out and work your bees like you did in the spring. Regardless, your bees need you more than ever right now. Hopefully they are strong and will be able to handle the many challenges awaiting them through dearth, pest season, and ultimately winter. As beekeepers we know that last minute preparations rarely yield the results we want, so we must find a way to work with them now rather than later. Try getting out early in the morning while it’s still cool. I recommend you do as the bees do this time of year – get out and get your work done early and stay home and dance after it gets hot. I’ve found the bees gentle in the early hours recently. Most foragers are out early to gather the nectar produced overnight and many of the house bees are cordial enough. Limit your inspections to ensuring they have what they need and are well. Lower their stress levels with some feed, water, and mite control, and they will do much of the rest.
Pictures above show thin syrup on top (protected) and water in Boardman feeders.