So you are likely all set up coming out of Winter and ready to hit the Summer nectar flow. So what is next for your new or recently established hive(s) and apiary?
Early Summer/Late Spring Beekeeping Todo's-
By now, depending on what hemisphere you are located in and how close to the equator you are, late Spring or early Summer comes on the heels of your busy Spring setup. For us in the North that is from March to May and for you in the Southern hemisphere is from September to November. Early Spring brought cleaning out hive dead outs, feeding overwintered hives, and installing new bees when needed.
Now your focus starts to migrate to three major items: disease/ pest prevention, honey production, and swarming prevention. These are some of the main factors that will pay off exponentially come fall when you are pulling your honey supers and getting your honey ready for gifts or the market and keeping your hives strong going into Winter, which is key to colony survival.
The 3 Steps to Focus on Going into Summer-
Depending on your management style, traditional, Darwinian, etc. your tactic may be slightly different, especially when it comes to treating pests, but for the most part, these are your tasks for late Spring:
Disease and pest prevention in your beehive- There are a few tactics that you can focus on when you are developing or tackling disease and pest procedures and method(s). There are loads of tactics and many styles in managing diseases and pests, but the first thing to ensure is that you are following your state law(s) on diseases and such. DISCLAIMER: Even if you disagree with the laws of the state on managing pests, you still must follow them and if you believe in-laws in need of change, reach out to your local beekeeping club and work with them in lobbying for the law change. When it comes to pests, like skunks, raccoons, bears, and the like. a good fence with some electrification works great at keeping those pests out. And by now it's likely ok to remove those mouse guards if you installed them as the bees should be nice and strong and capable of defending the hive opening.
Prepping the beehives for honey production- Often this is as simple as stacking some honey supers onto the hive if you are using a Langstroth-like beehive. But additional steps can be taken to increase the strength of the hive and therefore their productivity. In places with little to no water for the bees, a chicken waterer works well, this will help them cool their hives down and increase brood production. Additionally, make sure you do not add too many honey supers at a time, so the bees will concentrate their efforts on each box.
Swarming prevention- This is simple and complicated, and mostly based on timing. As well as sometimes as simple as adding space for the bees by adding a honey super or two. Timing and preventing swarming is often one of the more challenging aspects of beekeeping, however, if you pay close attention to the signs of swarming, and assume you do not have any electronics assisting you, swarming without sensors is sometimes difficult to fully identify from typical activity in a hive. However, there are visual signs that a hive may be ready to swarm, such as; hives that are full of resources with no more space to store additional resources, the presence of queen cups that have eggs or larva in them, or high worker and drone populations with stagnant worker bees. Once you've identified possible pre-swarming activities it's time to give them space with supers or by splitting the hive.
What are the next steps?
Now that you have taken the steps to have strong hives, you're in a good position for what is likely the main honey flow and with maximum worker populations in each hive. To listen on expert beekeepers and their strategies, you can subscribe to Hyve Time, our podcast.