When the heat waves become notably damaging and the temperature is above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the bees’ hive becomes almost inhospitable. That is the moment when the beekeeper should intervene to protect hives against intense temperatures, by applying proper practices for the summertime season.
In our last article, we started by mentioning some of the most important beekeeping practices for summertime and down below, we will continue with part II of our recommendations.
Before you set up your apiary operations, you should verify the availability of water within 200 meters. Just like we rely on water for hydration especially during the summer days, bees also consider water very important for their well-being. They consume more than 1 L of water a day to keep the hive at the right temperature. Even though bees need water all year long, summer days require more of it.
Your task, as a beekeeper, is to provide a fresh water source for bees to avoid dehydration. If you can’t identify a natural water source, you might as well improvise. Place a large water container near your hives. Bring rocks or plants to help them land safely while they drink – otherwise, if they land on deeper water, they could drown. Refill the watering stations regularly, especially on hotter days.
When it comes to analyzing the quality of water, make sure it’s not contaminated, either with mosquito larva or other natural chemicals. To make sure it’s clean, you can rely on simple water testing.
Hive insulation is another practice that can keep your colony cool during the summer months. Although it is designed for the winter time, in order to keep the hives warm, it can also be efficient in the hot season. Particularly, the roof insulation can maintain the temperature secured inside the hive while minimizing the impact of the sunlight on the hive.
Watch for signs of swarming
Spring is the season when swarming is more likely to take place, but in summer there’s still a chance it could happen. Beekeepers should be aware and try to detect the signs of swarming, before the colony becomes weak. Keeping an eye on the bees and preventing the overcrowding of the hives, should be enough to end the swarms before they start.
Spring and summer are the seasons when the bee population escalates from around 20.000 bees to approximately 60.000. Although swarming is a sign of a thriving colony, the risk for the bees to feel overcrowded is high. The extra number of bees will not feel comfortable into a small space and that could activate the swarm.
Losing half the productive bees in the middle of the season is something that you can prevent, by actively monitoring your hives for signs of overcrowding.
Start by identifying the queen cells. They look larger than normal brood cells and are shaped as peanut shells. The brood frames are embraced by these queen cells around the edges. A sign that the bees could be preparing for a swarm is when the queen cells are empty.
Other ways to detect a swarm is to look out for brood numbers, honey stores and bee population. Once you notice the increase of numbers, it is time to make changes in the hive, before it starts to overcrowd. If you observe a sudden drop off bee numbers, it is obvious that a swarm already took place and the hive is suffering a loss in population.
To prevent the swarm from happening, offer the bees enough space for brood, honey storage and movement.
Keep an eye on the queen
The queen always plays the most important character in any story. Without her royal presence, the population cannot thrive. It goes the same for the queen bee. Her existence is crucial for the health of the hive. She is the pillar that holds the colony healthy. Her connection to the other bees is unbelievable because they cannot produce honey without the influence of her hormones. If she wouldn’t be present, there would be no brood and the colony would die off. These are a few reasons why the queen needs to be checked upon at every hive inspection.
First things first, verify her presence inside the hive by checking for eggs and larvae. Check if the brood is in harmony or uneven. If the reason of re-queening is related to the queen’s condition, do it rapidly. On a regular basis, some beekeepers requeen in late summer or early fall, when the chance for queen acceptance is higher.
On the other hand, another option you could take into account is letting your hive do the job, by creating a new queen. However, this method implies a disadvantage that can affect your hive – the population will remain for a period of time without any new bees, which will create a brood break.
By following this beekeeping guide responsibly, you will be able to see your hives buzzing with activity and in the end, taste that delicious harvest.
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