June can be a make-or-break it month for beekeepers. It’s an important month for growing your colony before the main flow. Our season is short, but it is plentiful. If your hive is loaded with brood and bees before the main flow, you will be sure to have a great honey crop. However, June can throw a few hurdles our way. That's why it's so important to manage your hive properly in June. In our recent video at Meet the Beekeeper, we cover a few of these topics.
If your hive is thriving, it’s undergoing a major population increase. Hold back the urge to open your hive too often this month. We recommend limiting how much you disturb your hive so you don’t kill the queen and the bees can focus on their work. The brood this month will be your main foraging force come the main flow in July. The queen is at her busiest right now laying approximately 1,000 to 1,500 eggs per day. Colonies can go from 7,500 bees in March to 80,000 in July! If you are aiming to have surplus honey this summer, you need to ensure your queen lays well in June. You will also need to add boxes or plan to add a super by mid-June.
We can love it or hate it as beekeepers. We talk a lot about good flying days, low wind and no rain. But, June often brings too many rainy or windy days. Either can have negative effects on a hive that is growing so rapidly. With so much brood and bees in the colony, if the bees can’t leave the hive for a few days, they will start using their honey stores. Hives can go into a state of starvation because they can’t bring in enough of what is needed for the colony. If unable to leave the hive for a few days, the bees can also slow the queen’s laying cycle down if stores are depleting and pollen and nectar is not being brought in. A hive with two boxes and 20 frames will use about 2 pounds of honey stores in 24 hours. To help with the days bees can’t reach natural sources, we recommend an inverted pail feeder until the longest day (approximately June 22). The bees will only use the pail feeder if they need it. If they can fly and forage, they will. Hear more about June weather, hive management, and wasps here.
During dandelion flow, queens lay approximately 750 to 1,500 eggs per day. In the prairies, we need dandelion to get to the main flow. There are few sources of pollen and nectar, but dandelions are a source of both. It saves the bees from starvation in early spring and provides a natural source during dearth. It is the second source for bees after the willow in early spring. Dandelion honey is also amazing, but difficult to harvest as the bees need it for stores until they reach the main flow. You can’t mistake the smell of dandelion wax and honey when you open your hive in May and early June.
Right now we are transitioning between dandelion and the main flow of canola, sweet clover and/or clover. Dearth is when there is little or no source of nectar and pollen between flows. Currently the dandelion is ending, and we await the alfalfa to start blooming in a few weeks (depending on weather).
We have been receiving a lot of reports about swarms. Bees swarm when they run out of room in the hive. Half of the bees will leave with the queen to find a new home. If your bees swarm in June, you unfortunately lose your honey crop for the summer. There is not enough time to introduce a new queen and build up the colony to create surplus honey. If this happens to you, you will need to allow the bees to create stores for the winter. You will not be able to take any honey stores for your own use. To avoid swarms, we recommend splitting your hive at the end of May during the dandelion flow. You also need to add a box to your hive in early to mid June and plan for supers at the end of the month.
Supers should go on by the end of June and definitely by the July long weekend. A two-storey overwintered hive will need approx.:
If you need boxes or supplies, we have plenty in our Edmonton Store or order online. Any questions, contact us. At the next Meet The Beekeeper on June 26, we will show you how to add a super.
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What should you do if your bees have died? First thing you should do is look at your hive and see if you can detect any moisture, disease or anything else that may have caused your colonies demise. Do your best to take any samples you need, photos and get a second opinion from a fellow beekeeper, mentor or us!