July 10, 2013

The Beekeeper's Calendar: Late-Season Management

This is the time of year to think of supering for the fall flow, of requeening, and of combining weak colonies. Perhaps you do not actually do all of these things in early August, but you do think of them and begin to observe and plan. — excerpt from Hive Management: A Seasonal Guide for Beekeepers by Richard E. Bonney
Swarms #2&3 were hived on May 29&30. The bottom box was baited with a ladder on 16 Jun. As of 9 July, the box is maybe half-built. This late in the Summer, we must say this is a weak colony.
The main nectar flow is over with just a few young Lindens still blooming. It's late Summer and today we are assessing our colonies. Our hivesitter JB has had a busy year with a full backyard apiary and a couple of outyards. Here's the situation where our hive (called "Remainder") resides:

  • Remainder colony - weak, doesn't seem to be making much progress (not surprising).
  • Prime Swarm - doing OK, they nearly have the third box full. Will likely need to add the fourth box this week.
  • Combined swarms #2&3 - not where I'd like them to be. Have a full box and another about half full (photos above).
  • Swarm #4 - in langstroth box, doing OK, but probably too small to get up to speed by the end of the season. The Queen looks a lot like her Grampa's Gourmet grandmother (or possibly an aunt.)
Here are his current plans:
  1. Leave the prime swarm alone, they should be fine. If they fill the fourth box, I think we can plan on having a harvest.
  2. Combine the remainder colony with the #2&3 swarm colony. There's not much information out there on combining Warré colonies that I was able to find, but I would just do a newspaper combine by stacking the remainder colony atop the swarm colony. I also envision doing some more surgery on the hive to remove the oversized top bars and get them out of the mix before the end of the season.
  3. I had a queenless colony last week; if they are still queenless this week, I will combine it with Swarm #4. If they aren't queenless, I will keep it in reserve in case any of my other colonies go queenless. And if that doesn't happen, well, I'll just combine them at some point into an existing colony.
What are your thoughts? —JB

Supering, requeening, combining hives… it's going to be a very interesting week ahead. Stay tuned for pictures. My UltraBreeze "stingproof" suit arrived, fits, and I'm ready to go in to the beeyard to work with the bees! — HB

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