May is here, and our goal is to help our bees reach maximum colony strength at blackberry blossom in June. The bee brood developing right now is going to bring in the food that provisions the colony through fall and winter, and your personal honey harvest as well. To achieve this, we recommend the following:
- Continue Swarm Management. We are at the height of swarm season now. Try to keep the head space above the brood nest free and open and move frames around if necessary. If the nights are warm and your colony is populous, go ahead and put empty drawn frames near the center of the brood nest to break it up. You can even borrow frames of brood from strong colonies to give to weak ones. If your colony has already swarmed, check for eggs about three weeks after the swarm. Don’t forget to control for Varroa mites at this time – only about 1/6 of the colony’s mites left with the swarm, so the remaining bees are likely to have a heavy mite burden.
- Watch for Queen Issues. Queen problems at this time can really hold a colony back. Watch for broodless periods, bad laying patterns, and laying workers.
- Control Your Mites. All that brood in your colony means Varroa mites are reproducing too! Don’t neglect Varroa monitoring in your colony – a high count now could mean rapid collapse in the fall. If you aren’t sure about how to get an accurate mite count, Shonnard’s can help.
- Guide Your Bees to Water. It is hard to believe that dry weather will ever come, but when it does your bees are going to find the most convenient water source and return to it all summer long. To ensure the bee watering hole is not your neighbor’s swimming pool or bird feeder, provide a constant source of water near your hive(s).
- Stack Those Supers! If you have two or three drawn honey supers for a colony, put them all on early! This is thought to encourage the bees to bring in more nectar. You can rearrange and reduce space if necessary as the blackberry flow dries up.
- Feed New Colonies. Don’t stop feeding new colonies until they start to lose interest in syrup or are well established. It’s best to let the bees have at least a box full of drawn frames and plenty of emerging brood before taking food away. However, don’t feed your bees if you have honey supers on or you’ll have sugar syrup instead of honey in your harvest!