July in the Apiary by Kathy Cox

Wow is it hot! The bees think so too. They are bearding all over the front of the hives. If you have the observation/sticky boards in, you should take them out to help with air circulation. In the really hot weather, we can put nickels or fat skewers in the 4 corners of the boxes to help cool the hives down. Do not take the advice of those online who say to spray down the hives! And don’t forget water for the bees. My waterers are simple flat pans filled with rocks that are higher than the edges of the pan. They need filling daily, so do not forget. You can put them where a sprinkler will automatically keep them filled for you. I add a quarter teaspoon of salt to the water. The bees really like it.

If you are feeding, and not all hives will take the feed, it should be a third sugar and two thirds water. If you have undrawn comb, you should be feeding. When it is this hot the nectaries on flowers dry up. It takes several cool days to ramp up again. So even though there is supposed to be a nectar flow on, it could be interrupted by hot weather. The blackberries are still flowering in most areas, but when they are done, you can pull the frames of honey to extract the blackberry. The bees will continue to forage and will bring in Wildflower honey, which is simply all the flowers in your area. Did you know that side by side hives can have totally different tasting honey?

Make sure to have robbing screens on now. The yellow jackets and other bees are looking to steal food. Yellow jackets are after the brood and honeybees are after the nectar. Close up the bottom two entrances and make sure to have an upper entrance. Yellow jackets like to fly right in, so those lower ones must stay closed. Yellow jackets can kill a hive in less than 2 hours. First, they pick off the guard bees and then they call in their sisters and it is a slaughter.

Strong hives are the best for making it through the winter. If your hives are weak, you should consider combining them by the end of July. This is easy to do. You put newspaper in between the two hives. If you have one queen who is better than the other, you keep her in the original location and you put the other hive on top. When the bees chew through the paper, the queen on top smells the queen below (warmth makes the odors rise). She goes down in the other queen’s territory and the workers kill her. Her workers are used to the new queen’s pheromones and there is no fighting.

What happens after the blackberry flow is what is called the dearth of nectar. There is little for the bees to forage on. It is important to realize this and feed syrup at this time. It is an opportunity to get more food in the hive for surviving the winter. Syrup can be fed as long as the daytime temperature is at least 55 degrees. Watch for bee bread to be stored and if it is lacking then feed pollen patties. Remember nectar is the bee’s carbohydrate and pollen is the protein. Bees, like us, need both to survive.

It is also time by the end of the month to have done mite testing. Doing a mite wash is an exceptionally reliable way of assessing the number of mites. Varroa EZ Check is a little washing machine that samples 300 bees and gives an accurate count. You follow the directions and then choose the method of treatment. I hear new beekeepers say they do not want to kill 300 bees. To that I say, “kill 300 today or 30,000-60,000 later?” The winter collapse of a hive that has been overtaken by Varroa mites is totally unnecessary. I hope you realize to manage your bees, you HAVE TO MANAGE VARROA. If you do, when the queen starts laying the winter bees in September, they will be healthy and be able to take the colony though to Spring.