Summer in the Apiary


July and August are the main two months for the bees to forage on summer plants, it is best therefore to minimise inspections so that the bees can get on with their work unhindered. Do however keep an eye on the supers and if they are looking full add another one. You will be surprised, if the conditions are favourable, how quickly a super can be filled.

August can also see the bees supersede their queen – if she is getting old or not laying as she should the workers will make one queen cell, positioning it usually in the centre of a frame. There are still drones about in August and September and the virgin queen is able to take her mating flights and return to the hive and start to lay before the cooler weather starts. The workers will quietly dispose of the old queen. The supersedure often goes unnoticed by the beekeeper and it is not until the following year when inspections resume that an unmarked queen will be seen. If you do inspect in August and see one queen cell, leave well alone, this is definitely not a trigger to swarm; treat the frame really carefully and replace it gently back in the hive. Make a note in your hive record that you believe the colony are superseding their queen so that next year, when you start your inspections, you know you are looking for an unmarked queen.

One further point about queen cells – you may have received a swarm or nuc of bees during July and they are still in their nuc box, maybe this was because the colony originally was not very large, but on inspection there appears to be a number of queen cells. The colony is naturally expanding quite quickly and suddenly more space is required so the colony starts the swarming procedure. If you open your nuc and find queen cells do not remove them. Put the whole colony in a brood box on the same spot as the nuc was previously sited, checking to make sure the queen is still in the colony. If you can’t find the queen and there is no evidence of her (i.e. no eggs or pollen coming in) then remove all but two good plump queen cells. Do not look again for at least 3 weeks so that the virgin queen has a chance to go off and mate and then come back to start laying.

If you do find the queen and there is evidence that she is laying, then you can destroy the queen cells but make sure you remove every single one, look again in a week to check that the bees are now happy with the larger home and have settled down. If there is something wrong with the queen at this stage they may supersede her, but they can only do that if eggs are present so it is very important to check that eggs are there when you put the bees in the larger box. If you are unsure of what to do talk to another beekeeper quickly before removing any queen cells – it is important not to leave yourself queenless.

Many beekeepers remove the surplus honey in August, mainly because the chemical treatments for varroa mite need warmer temperatures to enable them to work properly. In Carmarthenshire Beekeepers we are encouraging non chemical treatments – icing sugar and drone comb removal and therefore surplus honey need not be removed until September.

Middle class fad for beekeeping sees a doubling in number of hives

The British beekeepers association said there are now more than 80,000 hives registered in Britain, compared to 40,000 in 2007. The organisation said there has been an increase in the number of honey bees in Britain over the last two years from 23 billion to 48 billion.

Plant flowers to help bees find food in Summer

Summer is typically thought of as a peak time for flowering plants and insects due to the long hours of daylight and warmer weather. But preliminary findings of a study into the distances at which bees forage for food through the year suggests it may be one of the toughest times for them.

Bee Facts

  • Physicians in ancient Rome used honey to help their patients fall asleep.
  • Honey contains vitamins and antioxidants, but is fat free, cholesterol free and sodium free! One antioxidant called “pinocembrin” is only found in honey.
  • As recently as the First World War, honey was being mixed with cod liver oil to dress wounds on the battlefield.

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