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How to Keep a Beehive in the Summer

6 of 10 in Series: The Essentials of Beekeeping Schedules

The seasonal calendar of beekeeping events in Maine obviously looks different than one in southern California. But different climates mean different schedules and activities for the hive and beekeeper. Regardless of their precise location, honey bees are impacted by the general change of seasons. Knowing what major activities are taking place within the hive and what’s expected of you during these seasons is useful. For a good beekeeper, anticipation is the key to success.

Nectar flow usually reaches its peak during summer. That’s also when the population of the colony usually reaches its peak. When that’s the case, your colonies are quite self sufficient, boiling with worker bees tirelessly collecting pollen, gathering nectar, and making honey. Note, however, that the queen's rate of egg laying drops a bit during the late summer.

On hot and humid nights, you may see a huge curtain of bees hanging on the exterior of the hive. Don’t worry. They’re simply cooling off on the front porch. Consider providing better ventilation for the colony by adding ventilation holes.

Late in summer the colony's growth begins to diminish. Drones still are around, but outside activity begins slowing down when the nectar flow slows. Bees seem to be restless and become protective of their honey.

Your summer beekeeping to-do list

Here are some activities you can expect to schedule between trips to the beach and hot-dog picnics.

  • Inspecting the hive every other week, making sure that it’s healthy and that the queen is present.

  • Adding honey supers as needed. Keep your fingers crossed in anticipation of a great honey harvest.

  • Keeping up swarm control through mid-summer. Late in the summer there is little chance of swarming.

  • Being on the lookout for honey-robbing wasps or other bees. A hive under full attack is a nasty situation.

  • Harvesting your honey crop at the end of the nectar flow. Remember that in zones experiencing cold winters, the colony requires at least 60 pounds of honey for use during winter. This is the time to break out your gloves, because your normally docile bees are at their most defensive. They don’t want to give up their honey without a bit of a fight!

Your summer time commitment to the hive

You can’t do all that much until the end of the summer and the honey harvest, because your bees are doing it all! Figure on spending about eight to ten hours with your bees during the summer months. Most of this time involves harvesting and bottling honey.

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