As May winds down, the spring beekeeping season wanes with it. There are a lot of highs and lows associated with spring beekeeping: finding out if your colony survived, installing a nuc, watching your bee population boom, dealing with swarming behaviors, etc. The transition from spring to summer can be just as exciting. It’s not as dramatic of a season change as winter to spring, but a lot of interesting things still happen inside your hive. As a beekeeper, you can do a lot of things right now to set yourself up for success. Today I’m going to go over some of the steps you should take in May and June to start the summer beekeeping season off right. Let’s take a look at what you should be doing.
Spring and summer are two of the most important times to complete hive inspections. I really can’t overstate the importance of gathering data on your bees. We are living in challenging and changing times, and the delicate art of beekeeping is no more static than any other field. Environmental changes like climate change and reduction of habitat can affect how your bees operate. New studies pour in daily about which nectars honey bees like the most, what petals they are the best at prying open, how they spot intruders, and so much more. Unless you have the data to understand how your bees are doing on a week-by-week, month-by-month, year-by-year basis, applying adapting to any and all of these changes can be a difficult and frustrating task. Here at Beepods, we take inspections seriously, and even offer hive inspection forms, samples, and instructions.
The Healthy Hive Management Software is one of the marquee services offered by Beepods Lab, where not only can you track your hives over time, but Beepods collates the data to give a better picture of how hives are doing all around the area. For your part, there are a few things you should for that are immediately relevant to your hive’s condition. A spring hive should be bustling, so you’ll want to see lots of activity. Mark down things like how many frames have been built out, what percentage of each frame’s comb is filled with brood, honey, bee bread, etc. If you have data from previous years you can compare the two and see how well this year’s workers are stacking up. Either way, that data can guide you through the rest of the year. A hive full of honey and bee bread doesn’t need feeding, for example.
Not only is spring a great time to gather data on your bees, it’s also one of the best times to get to know them. Bees might not be the most stimulating conversationalist, but your relationship with your bees is a crucial part in maintaining a healthy hive. We’re all about beekeeping for the bees, and that becomes a lot easier when your bees trust you. Earning a colony’s trust isn’t particularly hard. All it takes is for you to be consistently respectful, conscientious, and careful as you go through your inspections. Despite all your precautions, inspections do cause a bit of a disruption in daily bee-activity. This is why the best time to perform them is when your bees are their least aggressive. There are a lot of reasons bees can turn from docile to defensive, but one is simply the time of year.
During spring, bees are usually too busy to bother you. They’re rounding up resources, growing the colony like their lives depend on it (they do), and scouting far and wide to get the best hauls. One reason they are noticeably calmer is that they don’t have much to protect. They haven’t exactly filled their coffers to the brim. This starts to change in the summer. During the summer beekeeping season, healthy hives will reach their full size and start storing more and more food for the winter. This can make them a little prickly about intruders. That’s one reason why you want to establish a comfortable relationship with them now, in the transitory period between spring and summer. Speaking of making your bees comfortable, summer can get pretty hot! Bees use water to keep their hive temperature under control, so make sure to fill a bee bath in your yard.
These two pillars, data and familiarity, are central to beekeeping for the bees. You have to know what your bees need, and they have to be comfortable enough with you to let you give it to them. Summer officially starts on June 20th, and the time between then and now is ideal for getting these things done. You also want to check for parasites like Varroa mites and small hive beetles that can grow in population with your bees. The more information you gather about your colony and the more relaxed your hive is with you, the easier your job gets in the coming months. So get out there and get beekeeping!