What's going on in the hives in June

Ideally at this time of year honey bees should be concerned with making honey. The reality is though they’ll probably be trying to do something much less desirable to us beekeepers...

With the hot weather the hives have been quick to build up in size and we’ve seen a lot of swarm preparations this season. The tell tale sign is finding multiple queen cells along the bottom of the brood frames.

Bees swarm as part of their natural urge to reproduce, so it’s a difficult thing to prevent, but creating an ‘artificial swarm’ is considered one of the best courses of action. Essentially this is a way of tricking the bees into thinking they’ve swarmed so the urge goes away and they settle down. We’ve performed a few of these in early May, so the colonies are now requeened and ready for the summer nectar flow. Apart from trying to fly away in a swarm, the colonies have been steadily increasing in size. By now they’re at their largest and by adding more honey supers in a timely fashion, we can provide enough room not only for the extra bees, but for honey storage. It also has the added benefit of reducing the swarming impulse.

At this time of year the queen will have reached her peak in egg laying (up to 2000 eggs a day) and the hives should be bursting with bees. That way they can make the most of the upcoming main nectar flow with the strongest foraging force. The more foragers a colony has, the more nectar they can gather and ultimately that means more honey. Woop!

So in a nutshell, that’s what’s going on in the hives in June. It’s not hugely complicated, but there is a fine line between getting a honey crop or not. We’ve got our fingers crossed for plenty more sunny summer days and lots of honey for us and the bees.