Blackberry season is here!
The honey flow in the Willamette Valley is on! You should be seeing fresh white wax and a lot of nectar coming into your colonies. At this point in the season, it is better to have a few strong colonies rather than a larger number of weaker ones. A robust, populous colony is ideal for our relatively short foraging season. Your bees need strength in numbers to put away enough honey stores for winter, and possibly a surplus for you to harvest!
Here are some beekeeping tips for June:
Are you using new, undrawn frames in your first honey super? You may want to delay using a queen excluder until your bees have begun to draw wax on the frames – a small investment in the form of wax and honey can keep the bees from ignoring the frames.
Are you using drawn frames in your honey supers? Consider reducing the number to 7 frames (in an 8 frame box) or 9 frames (in a 10 frame box). The extra space will allow the bees to create extra-thick frames of honey, which can make for easier extraction and a larger honey harvest.
Monitor how your bees are storing honey in the supers. If there are full or even capped frames of honey in the center of the box, but the outer frames remain unfilled, move those empty frames to the center. Sometimes bees need a little extra encouragement to focus their attention on filling out all of the frames.
A target amount of honey stored for winter is 60-80 lbs. Your hives should be gaining weight right now – gently lift from the back every time you inspect your bees to gauge changes in weight. If the hives are not getting heavier as the summer progresses, figure out why!
Keep track of the varroa mite infestation level in your hive. When honey is harvested in late July or early August, the bee population begins declining as mite populations continue to rise. Mite levels can appear to explode quickly. Strong, “healthy” hives can crash in the course of a few weeks during this time of year. Ask us how to sample your hive for mites!
The end of blackberry bloom signals the beginning of robbing season. Your bees have put away lots of nectar, and other bees will be looking for ways to benefit from these stores. Don’t spill sugar or honey near your hives, keep the hives open for short periods of time only, and reduce the entrances of weaker hives.