Dog Days of Summer

The official "First Day of Summer" or Summer Solstice occurs around the 21st of June in the northern hemisphere. In south Texas, we often feel the heat wave about a month sooner. Whether starting a new colony from a nuc, making splits from existing colonies, relocating hives or simply maintaining bees in the summer, this time of the year poses a different set of challenges for the bees and the beekeepers.

Water is of course a key component used by the bees for managing temperatures and keeping things cool during this period. As the heat builds through the summer, without ample rainfall amounts, the moisture content in the soils typically diminishes and what ever blooms are still available typically lack sufficient nectar for the bees survival. This is referred to as the Nectar Dearth - the opposite of the Nectar Flow (or some call Honey Flow) we normally have in the spring.

Feeding Bees:
During a nectar and/or pollen dearth, when the food sources fade away with the heat rising daily, the bees may need assistance or supplements to help them along - especially young starter colonies. By offering a pollen substitute and simple sugar syrup made of a 1:1 ratio of table sugar and water, we help the colony along during these times of need. Some hives may take a gallon of syrup per week or even faster, while others may not use as much - depending on the local resources available and the hive population. Internal syrup feeders are recommended to prevent robbing activity from other hives in the area during a dearth.

Moving Bees:
Since bees can not see to fly at night, the majority of the field bees return to the hive from foraging before it becomes too dark to navigate. It is important to know the tasks of foraging bees is not limited to nectar and pollen. When the weather demands the hive to be cooled manually by the bees, the hive sends extra field bees to retrieve water to be used to maintain cooler temperatures throughout the hive.

When bees (nucs or hives) are to be moved, they are typically closed and contained in the hive the night before they are to be transported. This assures the bulk of the foraging field bees are home to make move with the hive. (A hive moved during the middle of the day will likely leave a good deal of their work force behind.)

Once they are closed and do not have a way to add the needed additional water to keep the hive cool, they should be kept well ventilated and in the shade. If long periods of confinement are necessary, cooling the hives by spraying or soaking them with water may be needed. Otherwise, abnormal bee death can occur.

Note: It is not unusual for a closed hive to have a number of dead bees on the bottom, as a large number of bees die daily - both in and outside of the hive - but there are an equally large number of replacement bees emerging as adults (being born) daily, so this is not normally anything to be alarmed about.

If a bee that is expiring can not exit the hive for what ever reason and ends up dead inside, they will end up being removed by the undertaker bees in the colony once the hive is open again. This also occurs when the weather is the cause for the bees to remain in the hive for extended periods, such as several hours or even days of heavy rainfall or extreme cold temperatures.

When we have bees contained for extended periods, we keep closed hives in the shade and watered down as much as possible. We recommend others do the same. When transporting bees in the summer months, please keep them well ventilated and as cool as possible. We can not be responsible for an overheated hive once they leave our apiary.

If you have any questions about transporting bees in the heat, please let us know before ordering or picking up bees.

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