County Wexford Beekeepers' Association
July in the Apiary
By Joe Redmond
July is a very busy month for beekeepers, colonies are still attempting to swarm and if the weather is favourable the main honey flow is in full swing. It is crucial to avoid losing a swarm now, so whatever swarm control you have decided to use must be carried out without fail.
Swarming also presents the opportunity to make a nuc or rear some Queens from the abundance of naturally raised Queen cells. After the third week of July you’d be very unlikely to get a swarm. Up to then you’d still be inspecting your hives weekly for swarm control. If your queen is clipped and marked then you’re far less likely to lose a swarm.
Different people have different ways of carrying out swarm control, but no matter what swarm procedure has been carried out it is crucial to make certain that the colony is Queen right (that is the colony still has a queen) while there is still time to correct it.
Increasing Your Stock
But for people starting out, what they could do for swarm control is increasing. Anyone that’s started out, say you’ve bought a nuc of bees or a hive, your primary aim in your first year should be to make a second one. If you get some honey, well and good, but the main objective should be to have two colonies going into the winter. Having just one hive going into the winter is too chancey.
If you have a box, a nuc box or anything at all, you can do increasing. You can use one of those little polystyrene mating boxes, they’re about €`20 or €25 and you can use them year after year. Take out a frame with a few queen cells on it, at least two or three, and put it into your box. Make sure you add a frame of pollen and shake in some young bees as well.
You should move the box away to another place, but if you can’t do that you might get away with it if you’ve shaken in plenty of young bees. If there’s plenty of young bees in the new colony you’re making up, they won’t have made their flight path yet and if you leave them locked in for a day or two and then leave them out one evening, most of them will stay with the new colony.
By taking out a couple of frames like that, you have an increase made and you won’t have taken an awful lot from the original hive. By the time those young bees are ready to forage, the honey flow would be finished anyway.
Because the honey flow is at its peak in July it is very important to keep an eye on supering to make sure the hive doesn't run out of room. Putting supers on gives the bees space to store the honey. You stack the supers one on top of the other above the brood chamber.
The bees usually fill the central frames first and then work outwards. If you look at a super, down the side of the frames, you can see that the bees have capped the honey. And it there’s capped honey in the outside frames away from the centre, then it’s definitely time to put on another super.
Sometimes you can just tap the crown board or the side of a super and you’d know that it was full just by the solid sound it makes. Also, when the super is full, they’ll often stick the crown board to the super.
If the crown board comes off easily then chances are they’re not under too much pressure for space yet. They can produce a lot of honey in a week if the weather is good, so you have to keep an eye on it.