June ’23 in the Apiary

Finally, the blackberry flow is upon us! Are your bees bringing in grey pollen? That is from the blackberries! Pollen-what do bees do with it? “Bee Bread” makes larvae and newly hatched bees grow strong. What is Bee Bread? It is pollen with a bit of nectar and when stored in a cell it has a light cap of wax to preserve it. Aren’t bees amazing? They create a pantry of resources to have a booming hive. Take note of all the colors that are pollen. GOOGLE “pollen chart” and know more about what pollen the bees are bringing home. Pollen is the bee’s protein.
As the blackberry flow ebbs, it is important to see an arch of honey/nectar at the top of brood frames, with an arch of bee bread right under it. It is most important to take off the honey for extracting and start feeding syrup which is then made up of 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Give the bees a pollen patty, too. The bees need 50-60 pounds of honey to get through the winter. In addition, they need a mite wash the beginning of August so that you have time to do treatments, if they need it, before the queen starts laying the winter bees. I use Apigard. It is meant to be put on the hives after you take off the honey. It is natural and made from Thyme. Some treatments are very hard on the queen and the brood. Apigard is put in the hive for the bees to walk over and spread it around. In 2 weeks, you put a second treatment in and that is all you need. To check to see what the Apigard is doing. Clean off the sticky board when you put the first treatment on. You can spray it lightly with Pam. That keeps the mites from crawling off. It also keeps the sap beetles and ants from taking the mites away to feed their babies. Look at the sticky board 24 hours later. You can compare your hive’s mite drop. Some bees have hygienic traits and smell the mite in the drone brood, which gives off a pheromone. They will rip the cell open removing the pupae and the mites. This is called VSH-Varroa Sensitive Hygienic. You will not find this if you have bees from California. The queens are made from grafts into a frame that holds 30 queens. The larvae are taken at random from regular queens. Did you know that queens are made from an egg that has changed to a first instar/day larvae? It lays down and looks like a typed comma.
Another smart move during the blackberry flow is to equalize the hives. This means taking some frames of capped brood from booming hives and giving them to weaker hives. Why? Because after the blackberries are done, there is what is called a “dearth of nectar.” This basically means there is no forage for the bees. It is a time when the bees get into robbing. It is easiest to rob the weaker hives in your apiary. The weaker hives are prone to robbing from neighbor bees.  Another way to equalize is to swap locations. Swap hive A with hive B. If A is weak and gets the position B is in, it will get all the foragers that belong to B. Instant population explosion. During the dearth, the bees do not make wax. It takes 8-10 pounds of honey to make a pound of wax! When the bees can’t get food, they get cranky and are harder to work. Did you know that the aroma of flowers calms aggressive bees?
There will be Goldenrod and Knotweed to forage after a while. Knotweed can give you a late honey crop. It is very dark and has hints of chocolate. Google it to know what it is. I find it on the sides of roads. It is invasive and is being torn out of a lot of places. After all of that is over, there is one last crop, but the bees can’t use it in the fall/winter when the bees can’t get out to get water. It is white and called ivy honey. It crystallizes immediately. It also stinks. Some folks say it smells like cat piss. Don’t leave it in the hive. I freeze it and give it back in the spring when the bees have plenty of access to water.
July is just around the corner. Talk with you again then.