Things are looking good. Your overwintered hives are booming. Your packages are installed and thriving. The honey flow has started and the bees bringing in loads of nectar. You have supered the hives to take advantage of the honey flow. Some beekeepers think it’s time to relax until the August honey harvest.
This is when many hobbyist beekeepers run into trouble. Its hot in your bee suit and many beekeepers tend to slow down on their hive inspections and let nature take its course. Actively managing your hives can increase your overall success. As a minimum you should be conducting a weekly inspection of the supers. During a good honey flow a hive can fill a medium super in a week. So the weekly inspection’s first aim is to make sure the bees have enough storage space for the incoming nectar. Add another super any time there is less than ½ super’s worth of open space. If the bees run out of storage space they will most likely begin storing the nectar in the brood nest area. This can trigger the hive to go into swarm mode; which is undesirable for multiple reasons.
Compare how your hives are filling the supers. There will always be variation between hives, however, any hives that are significantly lagging the others should be inspected in more detail. Once the supers are on inspections of the brood chamber (to verify continued brood production) are usually discontinued by most beekeepers. We all tend to get a little lazy at this time of year. It’s a lot of work lifting off supers.
If you detect a definite drop off in nectar storage in certain hives, its time to do a quick inspection of the brood chamber and verify the queen is present and laying or as a minimum the presence of brood. Finding your hive is queenless in August at honey harvest time greatly lessens the chances the hive can recover (even when re-queened) and survive the coming winter. I’ve been caught in this dilemma numerous times and in most cases the hive did not survive the winter despite fall feeding. The crux of the problem is the hive does not have sufficient population, even with the new queen in August, to efficiently utilize the fall feeding. Try to detect a faltering hive as early as possible and take corrective action.