Seasonal Beekeeping-Summer

One of the core things I teach new beekeepers is learning how to keep bees for every season. Aligning our lifestyle with the natural rythmns of the seasons promotes a sense of balance and well-being. It allows us to foster a connection with the environment in a deep way and it can, in turn, help us become better beekeepers. Since the bees are at the whim of each season, we must learn how to be more in tune with them for both our sake and for the sake of our precious bees.

Summer is upon us and it’s the most crucial time of the year in Tennessee for honeybees. It’s extremely important that beekeepers know how to take care of their hives during the Summer. The temperment of our bees can change in the Summer. Your once sweet hive is now following you around the yard from 30ft away. I don’t know about you but my mood changes in the Summer, too. Knowing our bees are more aggressive and that we have to deal with them in 90 degree weather can make the idea of a hive inspection seem daunting. Don’t forget to stay hydrated!

FOOD/NUTRTION: During the summer resources thin out and bees are in conservation mode. Pollen and nectar are critical this time of year because bees can starve if they don’t have the resources they need. There needs to be plenty of food in your hives and if there isn’t you should consider providing it for your bees. Check your frames and make sure they have honey stores. Remember-pollen is protein and nectar is carbs and just like us, bees need both.

The weight of your boxes can tell you a lot. Check their weight throughout the year so you have something to compare it to. Notice when it’s light and notice when it’s heavy. You can also consider keeping out a dry pollen sub and if the bees need it they will find it.

WATER: Things dry up during the Summer. There isn’t as much rain and therefore water sources like Springs, Creeks, and Rivers have often dried up. Water sources in our yards often dry up and disappear as well. It’s critical that beekeepers make sure their bees have continued access to water.

PESTS: Summer is the time for hive pests to increase. If you haven’t already, it’s time to check for mites. The Small Hive Beetle can also wreak its havok during this time, too. You really want to make sure you are putting hive beetle traps in your hive(s). I use generic unscented Swiffer sheets.

I like to open the sheet up and lay it right on top of the frames. If you are certain there are hive beetles in your hive and you have more than one box-add them to all of the boxes. Just set them right in the corners on the very top and check them every week. Just crack open the top and see how many SHB’s are stuck in the Swiffer sheets. If there are only two-that’s awesome. If there are 22- change out the Swiffer with a new one and make sure all of the SHB’s stuck to the Swiffer are dead.

Small Hive Beetles trapped in a Swiffer sheet

BEE TEMPERMENT: Bees can change their temperment for several reasons.

  • hot & humid weather-nobody likes it, not even the bees
  • a dearth-a shortage of food where bees lack resources and it causes stress on colonies
  • high mite levels-unhealthy bees aren’t happy
  • a queenless hive-this can cause a 360 in bee behavior
  • robbing-causes bees to be on high alert

You will not find a lot of bee bread this time of the year. Bee bread is fermented pollen and it’s long term food for the bees. Bees normally store pollen around the brood nest and the bee bread is up top and not close to the nursery. In the summer you are losing around 1,000 bees a day, depending on the size of the colony. You are going to see dead bees.

You can feed pollen patties. Break them up and allow the bees to access it as soon as they can. If you break them up it can also keep the small hive beetles from setting up shop. You want to make sure to not put it into a colony that has a ton of hive beetles. Consider the research of Katharina Davitt and feed your bees bananas!

What Beekeepers Can Do

  • Feed your colonies pollen patties but make sure you check them every few days because SHB’s like to lay eggs in them (and eat them)
  • Feed your colonies a sugar syrup mixture of 1:1 (water/sugar) I do not recommend the Boardman Feeder because it invites robbing
  • Time to insert your reducers! Yes it’s hot and bees are bearding but keeping their colonies closed up and tight helps them protect their space as well
  • When you do your hive inspections in the Summer months make sure you cover the hive you are working with to prevent robbing! As soon as you open your hives you will see yellowjackets and bumblebees fly on over like they own the place. I have seen honeybees from other hives rob exposed honey frames while beekeepers are working them. Be careful to not invite this into your hives!
  • Make sure your colonies are queen-right!