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Seasonal Management - Summer

Once June and the first couple of weeks of July have passed, the beekeeper can relax a little. The days are at their longest and the weather becoming steadily warmer. The summer flowers will start to appear towards the end of July but nectar and pollen will only be available when the weather permits. Rainy days mean the bees can't get out to forage, while hot dry days means the flowers don't produce much in the way of pollen and nectar. Your hives will be full of bees and brood, keep an eye on stores levels and the build up of honey in the supers, with any luck you may get a summer crop. Add supers with foundation as necessary.


Robbing

When there is a store of honey in the hive in the warm weather, its presence will be detected by other bees and wasps for miles around and they will try to exploit any weakness in a colonies defences. Keep up anti-wasp activity and ensure there are no gaps or ill-fitting hive components that will allow robbing bees and wasps in. Supers of honey can easily be robbed clean out within hours through the smallest of gaps, a great loss not to mention the dead bees from fighting inside the hive. Discourage robbing by keeping hives secure and by removing any comb, wax and unused hive components from the apiary.


Wasps

August into September is when wasps become a pest in the apiary. Their numbers will have been building up over the early part of the season and now they can smell the honey stores in your hives. They are persistent, and are not easily put off. Wasps find honey irresistible, and when they discover a source they will come in numbers to exploit it, and honeybees are no great match for the aggressive wasps that can sting repeatedly, unlike the bees. Reduce the size of the hive entrance in late July to allow guard bees a better chance of defending the hive. Traditionally placing wasp traps around the apiary proved effective, a jam or honey jar with a small hole in the lid and quarter filled with a chunk of honeycomb in water quickly fills up with drowned wasps, but is not the best solution. Alternatives are available, anti-wasp entrance devices are commercially available and are preferable if they work well without killing the wasps. Take steps to discourage them, don't leave old comb, wax, or hive components lying around the apiary as these attract wasps and encourage robbing.


Heather Honey

As July fades into August the late summer flowers appear, and if you are near moorland or upland areas, the ling heather will be coming into flower. Heather honey is similar in nature to Oil Seed Rape honey in that it is 'thixotropic,' setting solid in the comb. Foragers will fly up to three miles to exploit the heather bloom, which produces a rich colour and smell on the comb. Many beekeepers take their colonies to the heather when in bloom, returning them to the main apiary when its over. Only strong colonies should taken to the heather.

Upland and moorland areas are invariably less sheltered than your home apiary, your hives will be exposed to the sudden changes in weather to cold and windy. Care should be taken to ensure hives have sufficient stores to see them through any bad weather experienced out on the heather. The flow of nectar from heather can vary with the weather and has a direct effect on the temperament of the bees, becoming quite aggressive and readily stingy when the flow goes off. Also note that bees that have been working the heather end up in poor physical condition due to the rough nature of the heather plants. Due to its thixotropic nature heather honey harvested needs to be pressed out the comb rather than spun, or used as cut comb. Bearing this in mind, wired foundation is not desirable in heather supers.

Moving hives to and from the heather takes little preparation and is best carried out very early in the morning or late evening in low light when the bees are not active. Gently close up the hive entrance with lengths of sponge pushed in with your hive tool, don't forget any vent in the crown board, then use a ratchet strap or other lockable tie that can be tightened to keep floor, brood box, super, and crown board held firmly in place. The roofs can be carried separately for convenience. Bear in mind the temperature inside the hive will build up with all the bees confined, if the journey is likely to take some time consider using travel screens. Once unloaded at the the heather site, and set level on the ground, leave them to settle before releasing them.


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