What Should I Be Doing in My Apiary This Month? July

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July is not as busy as the previous few months, but it is still a very important month in the bee yard. If problems arise this month, things can go downhill very quickly. From now throughout the winter, it is important to maintain strong, healthy colonies. If a colony begins to decline during this time of the year, hive pests (most notably wax moths and small hive beetles) will be quick to jump on a weak colony and cause even more trouble. The theme for this month is maintenance.

Inspections at this point should be rather short so as not to instigate robbing. The main purpose of inspections at this time of year is to verify that colonies are queenright and healthy. Not every frame needs to be inspected. Once in the brood nest, check a few frames to verify eggs and larvae, then determine the health of the brood. Is there a nice brood pattern or is it spotty? If any colonies are found to be queenless or weak, they can be combined with stronger, queenright hives. If any deadouts are discovered, they need to be removed from the yard quickly before they succumb to hive pests or robbing. Freezing the frames for 24 hours before properly storing the equipment will prevent further infestations by the pests.

The main honey flow is just about over for most of the state. If there are any honey supers left on the hives, this is a good time to finish removing and extracting the last bit of honey for the season. Anything the bees can collect from here on out will be left for them to survive the winter. Remember to leave plenty of honey (at least 35 lbs, or about 4-5 full frames) for the colonies or else they will need to be fed throughout the winter. Once supers have been extracted, they can be placed back on the colonies for a day or two to allow the worker bees to completely clean up the residual honey. Once cleaned, the dry supers may be removed and will need to be properly stored to keep wax moths out until the spring when they will be needed once again. For those lucky ones in the mountains, the sourwood flow is still going strong, so these activities may be put off until next month.

Mid-summer is typically when Varroa mite populations begin to increase to levels that are detrimental to the honey bees. Now that supers have been removed, it is a good opportunity to test the mite level in the colonies. Using either a sugar shake or alcohol wash, sample ½ cup scoop of bees (approximately 300 bees) to determine the mite levels. Both sampling methods are described in the NC State Beekeeping Note 2.03. The current recommendation for necessary action is above 3% infestation. In a sample of 300 bees, anything over 9 mites would be considered above threshold. More information about when to control mites and acceptable methods depending on hive conditions and time of year may be found at the Honey Bee Health Coalition.

Finally, because the temperatures are so high this month and the bees are rather moody this time of year, indoor activities are a bonus. Extracted honey should be ready to bottle, and this would be a good time to prepare jars of honey to have ready to sell at a local farmers market or produce stand. Also catch up on repairing old hive equipment, building some replacement hives, and going to local and state beekeeper meetings to connect with others.