Bees of Summer

Summer isn’t a happy time for bees out here in California. It’s dry. Flowers are hard to find. Just keeping the hive cool can be a lot of work. The last time I checked in on them they had lots of honey and brood and passed the mite inspection with flying colors. I felt we were in good enough shape to put a honey super and queen excluder on and see if I couldn’t get some honey this year. That was at the beginning of June.

Today when I got up it was in my mind to check the bees. Donning a pair of coveralls, a hat, and carrying a hot smoker is not terribly appealing in high summer, but it had to be done. Whereas I’d been able to easily approach my happy beehive in spring wearing nothing but a pair of short pants and a t-shirt, I knew I needed to suit up to face a potentially defensive hoarde this late in the summer. So, on it went. Ugh.

What I found was a not terrifically happy colony.  They haven’t done anything with the honey super, so that’s a drag, but c’est la vie. It would have been exceptional to get honey this first year. So okay. The two deeps were full of bees and honey and quite heavy, although I was alarmed at first because I didn’t see any brood. Yikes! Lots of capped brood cells, I even saw an emerging bee, but it took me several frames before I saw any brood.  When I did see the little larvae, there weren’t that many.  I didn’t ever spot any eggs, although the bees were getting defensive so I was moving as fast-slow as I could. So I am not sure what all that means. I didn’t see the queen, but I am god awful at spotting the queen. I have to go by the other signs to know whether she’s around. I saw brood and I saw bees bringing back pollen, which are signs that they’re still reproducing, but they weren’t very strong signs. Meh!

So I took off the queen excluder, and I’m going to start feeding them. I’ll check them after a few weeks of feeding and hopefully I’ll see brood in the super and feel okay about them heading into winter. What I don’t want to find out is that I’ve lost my queen because that will be the end of the colony. Meh!

Sorry to post without pics, it’s hard to take photos and handle frames and mind a smoker all at the same time. I didn’t want to burn the place down trying to do too much at once.

4 thoughts on “Bees of Summer

  1. Yikes… I can’t imagine a smoker and bees and taking pix…that would be a lot. Hope they do ok. I miss my bees. thinking of trying again next year, which would make two years since ccd. Good luck w/ the feeding. Light brood makes me curious?!

    • Well, I did some reading after this post (I like to keep things exciting by not doing my research until AFTER I say a bunch of stuff to world, apparently) and I learned two things: from a University of California publication I learned that in my region it is typical for bees to significantly decrease brood production at the end of summer. Okay, well it’s not quite the end of summer, but it’s getting there. Then I got my Nevada County Beekeepers Association Newsletter this morning and Randy Oliver says that in the lower elevations of the county (where I am) there was a sudden starve a few weeks ago that nearly wiped out the weaker hives and he’s feeding all of his bees in the lower yards. My hive was strong, but a sudden starve on the honeyflow could explain why they cut way back on brood production. So my instinct to feed them was right! Of course, all of these are just theories given that I didn’t see the queen with my own eyes. But it makes sense. One good thing is that the hot dry summer has been hard on varroa, and mite levels are down throughout the county. Yay! Sorry to hear about your CCD. Do you know about Randy Oliver, and his website He’s an awesome resource and maybe reading some of his articles would boost your confidence about starting another colony.

      • I will check him out. I’ve been blessed with an antique bee keeper as a mentor, although is aging…here’s a man that makes his own hives from trees he harvests! CCD has been a problem here and after losing the last hive, I just was so sad that I did not want to recolonize again this year.
        Thanks for the update. Good on you for following your instincts.

      • I hear you on not doing research till ‘after’. As the bees on our property aren’t ‘my project’, I’ve been learning as I go. I also don’t get the full protection-kit. So I’ve been getting stung. But that’s a tangent. Wish you luck and I’m glad that you figured out that it’s not as alarming as it could have been!

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