What’s up in the hives this month?
Colonies that did not swarm will be boiling over with bees and the “honey flow” continues. Keep up swarm inspections and continue adding additional space as needed. Spring honey sources start to fade and a short honey dearth may happen between blooming cycles. Rain and weather conditions affect the summer nectar sources greatly. Under good conditions, the bees will continue to make honey. The start and stop honey flow will sometimes cause a few “after swarms”. The pace of honey production slows a bit and the Queen starts to lay fewer eggs. Fully capped honey supers may be removed and extracted.
- Watch for swarms
- Keep adding empty supers as needed
- Remove fully capped honey
- Attend bee meetings
Here is a very interesting resource showing nectar flow from NASA
The Rhythm of the Summer From PerfectBee-Honey Flow
There are few things as satisfying to a beekeeper as the reassuring but furious activity outside a hive on a hot summer day. As the colony establishes itself, each day brings a new, heightened level of excitement. Inside the hive some very important changes are taking place as the brood nest increases.
None of this happens in a vacuum. External factors have a huge impact on the activity within the hive and on its eventual survival. One of the more important of these is the “honey flow”.
What is the Honey Flow?
In simple terms, the honey flow is a sweet spot in time, if you’ll excuse the pun. It is the time when bees have ready access to abundant resources allowing them to dramatically accelerate the creation of honey within the hive.
So, the honey flow is less about honey actually flowing and more about bees having the opportunity to collect nectar to support them creating their honey.
Let’s make that a little more formal
The honey flow occurs when one or more abundant sources of nectar are available, along with suitable weather, allowing bees to forage for that nectar.
When Does the Honey Flow Occur?
Suitable flying weather is clearly related to the time of year and, indeed, the summer is most supportive of the honey flow. But it is not always summer. Spring can be an excellent time for a honey flow too as many flowers bloom.
What affects honey flow?
There are many variables affecting when the honey flow occurs. The two basic requirements are access to nectar and suitable weather.
There are various reasons why the weather might not be accommodating, beyond merely the temperature. For example, spring often brings windy conditions not conducive to the honey flow. So, the weather element of the honey flow is variable.
The other factor – ready access to nectar – can be a little more predictable, based on the types of flowers in the local environment and their flowering schedules. This is one aspect that need not be left purely to nature and the beekeeper has the potential to influence this significantly, with a little planning.
When should I expect a heavy flow of honey?
Beekeepers will see an ebb and flow through the warmer months and there may be multiple times where bees are able to create honey in abundance.
Of course, nature is complex and there are complicated interactions between weather patterns and the blooming of flowers. In general, though, a seasoned beekeeper will be able to tell, with reasonable accuracy, when the honey flow might occur in their location.
How to Spot the Honey Flow
Since the honey flow can be triggered by the blooming of flowers within miles of the hive, it is not as simple as checking local flowers to determine whether the honey flow has arrived. The only precise way to be aware of the honey flow is to check the behavior of your bees.
The most obvious sign is the level of activity and the number of bees out foraging. Bees will come back to the hive fully loaded with nectar, while other bees are leaving to gather still more.
The resultant image is one that is heartwarming to the beekeeper – hundreds of bees flowing in and out of the hive. It truly is a sight to behold.
Associated with all this activity will be a rapid increase in the amount of honey stored. While the prudent beekeeper will avoid disturbing bees too much, it is important to be aware of the potential for swarming.
During the honey flow, it’s possible for a single hive to gain 5 lbs. or more of honey – in a single day!
In short, if bees can make honey through access to nectar and accommodating weather – they will take it!
What Beekeepers Can Do to Help
The honey flow isn’t just a time for beekeepers to smile. It is also a time to be very observant. The honey flow represents a rapid increase in the space bees need in the hive. At a rate of several pounds of new honey per day, a hive with limited space can quickly lead to a colony with thoughts of swarming.
If the colony swarms, it will essentially split in two, with one half leaving the colony for a new home.
An alert beekeeper is aware at all times of the space available in the hive. Expanding the hive by adding boxes is a key decision the beekeeper will make, offering bees more space for the extra honey and thus reducing the chances of swarming.
Aside from a visual check, the weight of the hive will be an important indicator. An increasing number of beekeepers weigh their hives using monitors and the honey flow is associated with a dramatic increase in weight.
In a more proactive sense, beekeepers can plant flowers intentionally chosen to bloom in a staggered manner throughout the seasons. Doing this doesn’t just have the potential to bring weeks of color to your garden, but makes for an extended honey flow, as bees move from one type of flower to another for their nectar fix!
Done well, the beekeeper – and bees – can enjoy and extended and beautiful series of honey flows.
Our Guest Speaker this month: Clint Brooks
Clint Brooks grew up in Eastern Mecklenburg County on a family farm that historically produced grain and cotton which supported the family owned feed mill and cotton gin. As the years went by, the development of Mecklenburg County brought changes and made farming difficult in the area. In 2007 Clint and his family moved to Stanly County where they bought some acreage and started over in their farming endeavors. At this time Clint and his brother worked closely together to produce fresh produce for the local markets and community within Stanley and Cabarrus County. As they worked with produce intensively, Clint determined that obtaining a few beehives might help improve pollination and overall yields. With his degree in Environmental Biology/Ecology, after obtaining a few NUCs with pollination in mind, the fascination of bees took a stronghold on Clint and quickly transitioned into understanding life cycles and development of bees, specifically queen bees. Through a simple Religion’s class in 2010, Clint met his now wife, Kasey H. Brooks and by faith and perseverance, they both sought serving the community around them and thus started Brooks Mill Farms®.