If you’re wondering how to care for bees during summer, this basic beekeeping summer hive management guide is for you.
If you’ve been following our podcast, listened to our last episode on What to Find at Your Farmer’s Market in July, or read various posts throughout our site then you would know that I am a market gardener. I grow about 2 acres of vegetables and love being able to provide those goods to our community. Which is kind of how my husband and I got started in beekeeping. We found out that they are great pollinators and great for vegetable crops.
Whether you’re brand new to beekeeping or you’ve been doing this for years my goal is to create value for each stage. All that being said let’s dive into this episode.
In this episode you will find:
- Beekeeping information on how to keep a bee hive
- Possible problems within your hive and a beekeeper schedule on how to fix them
- Why we decided to become beekeepers
- A basic beekeeping summer hive management guide that can help you get through the hot summer.
Listen to the Podcast:
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Honey Bee Management Practices
A common misconception about beehives in the summer is that you can just let them go and you could but you’re likely not going to get the honey flow that you want especially if there are problems within your hive. That is what we’re going to tackle today, what problems could arise, how to correct them, and what to expect during summer inspections.
What to look for
When we’re talking summer and seasonal management of honey bees. This episode we’re focusing on the early to mid June time frame. Typically we’re still transitioning from spring to summer here so the hive is still going to be pretty cool. They’re going to be working away and comfortable. However, this year was not the case.
We have already had triple digits here in Kansas so you never know and you need to be prepared. Once you’re ready to start that summer maintenance you’ll want to estimate the size of the colony. You probably split your second and third year hives and an older. If you have older hives, you may have slipped them, rotated them around. So after leaving them alone for several weeks, you can go in and estimate the size of your colony because those new queens should have been laying and populating the hive even more. The rule of thumb is a population over 40,000 bees in the colony and while I know it’s gonna be difficult to count 40,000, you can kind of sit down and watch the bees coming back and forth and count about 60 to 90 bees coming back and forth.
You’re going to notice when you open the hives, that 70 to 80 percent of those frames should be covered and bees, when you open up your brood boxes and that is when you know that you should set on the first super box. The super boxes are a smaller box. That’s where the bees are going to put their overflow honey that we harvest later. So you can just set that right on top of your top Brood Chamber.
All right, so you’re estimating the size of your colony after splits and queen things, or just basically the size of your colony me in general after the winter and spraying you’re going to tell if your quality is not strong, you don’t see as many bees on the frames, you may or may not be able to find yourself a queen.
So there are some ways to combat this. You can read the hives if you certainly cannot find a queen, you can purchase a queen from a queen rear and you can just google queens for sale online and they ship them to you overnight in. Go ahead and order and re-queen that honeybee hive now. Another way that you might notice weak hives is if you see wax moths coming in, I have another post about wax moths on the hive and how to prevent that from happening. Basically, wax moths come in when hives were weak.
A lot of times Varroa mite is one of the culprits. Varroa Mites can be controlled with a substance called Oxalic acid. A lot of beekeepers will use this in the spring to control their beehives. My beekeeping group has been soaking shop towels and to oxalic acid mixture and I’m hoping to share a post on this soon.
The use of these towels is a way to where we don’t have to spray into the hives. Usually, beekeepers who use Oxalic Acid spray the oxalic acid into the hive with possibility of hurting the queen and now that is not the case anymore with the towels. We just soak it in the towels and then we can just lay the towels and the hive and the worker bees kind of use it as a rub and they chew through it and they get it all over them and that helps get rid of the mites that are on them, which helps keep them healthy. So that is what we’re doing here as a mite control during summer.
Another thing that you might want to check if you see a weak hive is food stores. So look on the brood frames and see how much honey they have in there. If it’s very little, you’re gonna want to feed sugar syrup, that is the best way, the best food to actually feed the bees. Get yourself an entrance feeder or where you can feed inside the hive they have inside feeders as well.
Keeping the hive cool
Let’s talk about keeping beehives cool. The honey bee hive temperature is vital to colony health. There are several ways that we as beekeepers can help the hives. One of them is placing the hives into some shade, a shadier spot. You still want to place hives facing east so that they get the morning sun, but if they are kind of in a shady brushy area and then that will help a lot. If you don’t have any shade, you could put like a tent over the top and maybe make some shade that way of some sort. Basically you’re wanting to break the noon day sun and help cover those hives from that hot sun.
You’ll also want to be sure that fresh water is available. If you have ponds nearby then that’s great, if you don’t have any natural resources around you’ll need to create some. An easy way to provide water to your bees is to have a bird bath with water and some rocks so they don’t drown.
Typically honey flow begins about middle to the end of June. So you got your supers on already and depending on your population, what do you look for to find a honey flow? Here are some signs that you’re going to see if there is a honey flow presence.
The first thing you see is dramatic weight gains in the hives over several days or weeks. If you lift the hive a little bit and it feels heavier than 50 pounds or so, then you know that you have a honey flow and those bees are hoarding their honey into the hive.
Next sign is wax foundation on those frames are going to be drawn out quickly. That’s the first thing that the bees make on the frames as the wax foundation. If you see that happening, you know that that honey flow has started.
The next is when the bees are in really good temper and easy to work with, you’ll see videos and photos of people without their bee suits on and you’ll be like, are they crazy? Um, yeah. Typically there’s times when the bees are in good nature and that is one of those times. Now towards the end of the season, you’re going to want to watch out because bees are going to start being a little more aggressive and protective of their honey.
Another sign of honey flow is when fresh wax is evident on ends of drawn comb and on top bars. When you see that, that waxy stuff that it’s white in color, if you see that evidence on the drawn comb, you know that they’re about ready to be filled with honey. And then you might even see cells with honey in it that are kept and there’s wax over the top of that. And that is when you know that they’re definitely filling that comb with honey. That’s a good sign too.
The final sign is that you can smell the honey, you can smell the ripening of that sweet honey during a honey flow. My favorite sign for sure is the smell, the wonderful smell of that delicious honey being settled into the combs. That is when I know that the bees are definitely hard at work building that honey.
Avoid Opening the Hive during Honey Flow
When you know that your bees are healthy and you have your supers on and they’re busy and showing all the signs of the honey flow, you should really avoid opening the hive. You should really just let them work. Let them do their thing. The only time that you should do inspections during this time is for weekly inspections when you suspect that there’s a problem.
When I talked about different problems earlier in this episode, you should continue to check for those at least, every one or two weeks you should really be checking to make sure that you’re getting on top of those problems. Varroa Mites, different diseases that they might have wax moths in the hives and then if you re-queen a hive, you want to probably check after a couple days to make sure that she’s being accepted by the colony and then probably once a week you’ll want to check and make sure that, that she is still there and she is laying.
Place the honey supers on and again, the honey supers are the smaller boxes with frames that will hold excess honey. These are the boxes and frames that we will harvest when they are complete. In the U.S., that is typically in the fall. I know a lot of people get to harvest it earlier. You may not have any at all in the first few years and that’s okay. The main things is keeping your bees healthy and keeping the longevity of them alive. The next tip is to provide ventilation, plenty of ventilation through the summer.
The last task I guess is to not get greedy. Do not get greedy. Do not get impatient. Remember why you’re doing this. Please think about what you want your hives to look like in the long term.
Do not think of this as a get rich quick thing where you’re gonna sell a ton of honey and make a ton of money? It does not work that way. We do not keep bees for making money. I don’t know very many beekeepers that do veteran or not. I really don’t know very many beekeepers who are in it for the money. They’re in it because they need pollinators for their gardens, they want to help save the bees, and they want these to manage and they genuinely enjoy the hobby. So that’s what I hope for you is that you can genuinely enjoy this hobby.
The Don’ts of Beekeeping
- Don’t get greedy. Enjoy the process, let the hives do what they were intended for.
- Don’t give supers to a weak colony.
- When you have a strong colony only add one super at a time.
- Give them less space.
Bees are a fantastic addition to any farm. Whether it’s to help your vegetable garden, your crops, or your alfalfa fields to feed your livestock, these amazing little creatures are incredible to be a part of. I know I’m not going to get rich off selling honey but seeing the difference in my vegetables is more than worth it.
I hope this post and episode has helped you to understand and develop a basic beekeeping summer hive management guide and beekeeping schedule that’s right for you.
More bee resources:
~ Much Love ~
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