Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer Doldrums

Temperatures have been in the 90's F. all week, which has made me reluctant to do inspections. However, it's been awhile since I looked into some of the hives (almost 3 weeks for the mean ones!), so yesterday morning, I decided to bite the bullet and get outside.

Hippolyte is hot, too. Though she's the only one doing any real bearding.
I started my inspection around noon, and I began with the mean ones because I didn't want to overheat and decide "to heck with them" when it was their turn. They turned out to be ok, so maybe their grumpiness is related to time of day. In the past, I'd been checking them around 4:00 or 5:00 in the evening when the foragers were returning home. Today, they were almost mellow.

My full-size hives, Persephone, Hippolyte, and Austeja, seem fine. Persephone, the laggard, has only 16 drawn bars of comb, and about a third of that was given to her when I installed her. Lazy freeloader.

The other two have about 22-24 bars and loads of brood. Austeja is the one that kept getting split, so I think she could've built out a lot more, but it is what it is. In any case, in my area, 15 bars full of honey is the recommendation for going into winter. They have enough drawn comb, so if they fill it up, they'll be fine.

Brood comb from Hippolyte
The splits are doing well, too. Buttercup and Bubblegum have only one or two empty bars. Elsa and Peach are still really new and don't have much comb yet. I'll probably step up the feeding to help them draw out. I've been pretty negligent lately, giving them only about 2 quarts 1 to 2 times a week. However, I just bought 50 lbs of sugar at Costco that I'm motivated to move out of the kitchen, so I'll try to increase the feeding frequency. At this point, I'm more interested in getting them to build comb than anything else, so I've been feeding 1 part sugar: 2 parts water. I don't know that I'm seeing a lot of construction, but they're sucking it down fast enough.

Brood comb from recent split Elsa
The bees seem busy working things like coneflowers, Russian sage, and loosestrife. Butterfly bushes are in bloom, too. My ligularia is on its way out, but the bees never really got excited about it. Maybe there's not enough.

Maybe I'm becoming more observant, but I'm getting better at spotting queens.

Here's a better pic of her. I think this is Austeja.

Last week, our goldenrod started up. Last year, I left for vacation the last week of July, and it hadn't begun yet. When I came back two weeks later, it was just starting to bloom. That's three weeks difference in start time between this year and last! That's almost a month! Once again, I'm impressed by a beekeeper's need to be attuned to cues in nature rather than to work according to a strict calendar.

HRH Buttercup
Temperatures are supposed to hover in the 90's/mid- to upper-80's the rest of this week and next. Fortunately, there is a lull this time of year. The spring boom is over, and while the goldenrod marks the start of our fall flow, it's not yet in full swing. For me, these summer doldrums translate into a time when I don't need to worry about swarming or crooked comb. Therefore, there's no need to inspect, which is perfect since it's too hot to be outside in the middle of the day. Instead, we can spend our days cooling off at the beach or pool, which is way more pleasant than sweating into one's eyeballs.

Hope you're enjoying your summer, too!


  1. I'm so glad your hives are doing well, even the two southern belles - maybe there's hope for them after all! Love the Hippo(lyte) is Hot meme - we used to read Hot Hippo to our kids all the time. It's nice to have the downtime to make sure things are all okay before the next flow. Hope you have a long fall flow.

    I've been going in by 9:30am to beat the heat (90's+) - by noon I'd have a broken comb mess! Unlike you, I seem to have lost the ability to find queens this year - I haven't spotted one since May. But, 3 out of 4 of them are doing really well based on the number of bees and brood. BnB2 has been making honey like crazy so I think I'll harvest a couple of bars while my brother is visiting next week.

    1. You give me way too much credit. I'd never heard of Hot Hippo before today, but it looks like a great book to add to my never-ending list of must-haves. Thanks for the recommendation!

      That's fantastic that your bees are making enough honey to harvest! Hope you share your honey harvest on your blog!

  2. I'm in central South Carolina and its been really hot here as well. I have two hives (Bertha and Olive Oyl). Both have lots of bees and brood but very little honey. Cotton is just starting to bloom here and I am hoping that with all those flowers they will start to put up winter stores. This is my first year beekeeping is that a reasonable assumption on my part?

    1. I think every area of the country has its own seasonal flows that vary in timing. I wish I could help you out, but it's probably better to get connected with some local beeks who can tell you what to expect.

      I think it's pretty normal to have very little honey in your hive the first year since your bees need to build up before they can think about storing reserves. However, this is what I have noticed -- My bees raise a lot of brood and get it all capped while there is a dearth. During the dearth and just before the fall flow begins, those bees emerge and are ready to work. When the fall flow starts, they don't really build much and instead start packing honey away.

      I don't know too much about cotton flowers since it's too cold up here, but I've heard that it can be a great source of honey as long as it's not the Round-up ready variety. Fingers crossed that you get lots of honey!


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