We have now gone past the summer solstice, when the longest amount of daylight occurs. From a length of day standpoint its all downhill from here to December 21st. The solstice also marks the beginning of summer. The bees somehow know this and the hive/queen will begin to slow the raising of brood from its peak spring rate. The plants also seem to know this. Most seed producing plants have already bloomed. Therefore the honey flow also tends to slowly decline from here on out. Based on my personal observations it seems that the bees have already stored more than 60% of nectar by this point. In our area it seems that by mid-July the hives are basically just breaking even between consumption and nectar gathering.
Remember the third line in the swarm poem. “A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly”. That’s because even a strong swarm in July usually can’t store enough honey to make it through the winter; let alone to gather a surplus. Also as the raising of brood is reduced the bees begin to store honey in the upper portion of the brood chamber. This adds to the impression that honey making has slowed since it is not ending up in the honey supers. That said, the extra rain we have been seeing this year may extend the length of the honey flow.
The solstice also marks the time after which it is unwise to attempt to start a new hive unless you will go to extra lengths to allow its full development. After the solstice a nuc and new queen will not have enough time to grow the hive population and store enough provisions to survive the winter. Of course by heavily feeding a new hive, adding capped brood or frames of bees from another hive can give the new hive a boost and let them get strong enough for winter. Experienced beekeepers know to start new hives prior to the end of June to avoid the extra work and winter loss risk.
Now is also the time to begin thinking ahead about your fall plans. Remember the 6P’s. ( Prior planning prevents piss poor performance) So what should you be thinking about?
-Have you lined up the use of an extractor?
-Do you have buckets and bottles for the honey harvest? Think in terms of 3 gallons of honey for each full medium box.
-After the harvest in mid-August comes mite control. Have you procured the items for the method you have selected? Mite control should be done in mid-August so that the “winter” bees raised after that will have the least problems with mites and the associated viruses.
-Are you planning to re-queen the hives with older queens?
Think about these things now so that later you won't be saying to yourself "I should of thought about that before".