All beekeeping is local. These chores are for the Midlands of South Carolina. During early June the nectar flow ends with only a few location exceptions. Robbing becomes a concern as nectar becomes scarce. You will notice the bees wash boarding on the front of the hive and around entrances. It’s as though they don’t have anything to do other than wait at the entrance rocking back and forth. Populations are very large now and consume a great deal of food. Good weather and long days are ideal for foraging – if only there was nectar available. The early rising beekeeper may note that the bees fly with more enthusiasm during the morning hours. But as the heat increases and the nectar dries up fewer bees forage as the day progresses.
Last month we stated that as the nectar flow increases the bees often ignore sugar syrup. This month their interest in syrup will return. Be careful with sugar syrup and when harvesting honey as any spill may incite a robbing frenzy in the bee yard. Hive inspections should be brief and frames should not be scattered around which may provoke robbing. If you have not reached the hive volume necessary to overwinter continue to feed using a feeding method which does not provoke robbers. Continued heavy feeding will encourage them to build comb. After they have completed those boxes then it is your decision whether to continue to stimulate colony building and population. Unrestricted feeding will also result in large amounts of brood rearing.
This month will start the beginning of honey bee pest management. Your colonies will need your assistance with small hive beetle (SHB), and Varroa mite control.
Elderberry, Mimosa, Sparkleberry, Clover. Magnolia in earnest.
Plan on checks twice this month.
Dearth begins early this month. Start feeding when dearth begins with plan to “keep alive” until August then start stimulation to produce the nurse bees that will raise your winter bees..
Pull supers and process spring honey ASAP after the nectar flow ends – but no later than by end of month. If left on the hive for a fall harvest you may be surprised to find they have eaten it all by then – maintaining large colonies and turning honey and pollen into bees.
Place wet supers back on hives for clean up then remove for storage.
Assessing bee population to hive size: A properly sized hive to bee population allows the bees to handle many pests. I often say a properly sized hive pushes a dozen or more bees out on the landing board to guard the entrance. If you don’t see guards you may have too much inner hive space. Remove any supers if not needed and store.
Employ entrance reducers to discourage robbing. Remove Imirie shims.
Strong hives handle wax moths, beetles, and robbing. Keep hives strong by equalizing space with population (see above).
Any hive that is overachieving should be split and allowed to rear own queen now.
Check for Varroa early in the month once honey supers are removed. If treatment levels are met, (they typically are in my bee yards) treat using your method of choice. You will have more treatment choices if the weather remains cool. For more information: Varroa Management at NC State and more detail at Honey Bee Health Coalition.
Small hive beetle (SHB) populations may start to climb. When opening your hives always check under the inner cover first to assess and then kill as many as possible with your hive tool. Use oil traps, microfiber sheets, or other management tools to keep SHB under control. For more information: Small Hive beetle Management at Clemson.
Train your bees early to use the water sources you provide. If not, they may imprint on your neighbor’s pool or water feature. Keep water sources for bees filled. You’ll notice they need more water than during the spring since they no longer have the moisture provided by nectar. They also need to gather more water now for hive cooling and to dilute honey for consumption. More information here.
Keep yourself well hydrated. High temperatures are not uncommon in the Midlands during June. Hydrate before working, during, and afterwards. Move your inspections to earlier in the day rather than at midday. Observe when the bees are flying and use this as your indicator of an appropriate time to enter the hive.
1) Harvest honey crop.
2) Replace wet supers on hives for the bees to clean up.
3) Create water sources for your bees. The more the better.
4) Assess and treat for Varroa.
5) Make summer splits if hive population is large.
6) Begin feeding program if needed.
7) Consider moving bees to sourwood or cotton to capture late summer flows.
8) Attend monthly local club meeting.
9) Volunteer at association meeting, event, or festival; consider becoming a club leader, mentor, or become a bee buddy.
10) This year’s South Carolina Beekeepers Association’s Summer meeting is in Columbia! Attend at least one state or regional beekeeping conference.
The above are general guidelines for the average bee colony in the Midlands of South Carolina. We all have hives that may be outperforming the average. We also have colonies that underperform the average. Use your judgement in making changes suggested here. Beekeeping is an art as well as a science. Only you know the many, many particulars associated with your physical hives as well as the general health and population of your colonies.