June is a high activity time in the apiary. There are many task that a beekeeper needs to accomplish if he/she wants to maximize the return on their investment of time and money.
Hives started with package bees or nucs need to be regularly inspected to verify they are queenright. Failure to do so can have dire consequences. For myself, I had two packages go queenless. I noticed both in time. One accepted the new queen and is on its way to full recovery. The second did not accept the replacement queen. Unfortunately, I was distracted by other tasks and this hive ended up with laying workers. I am currently trying to remedy the situation. Hives with laying workers are a good subject for a separate article.
Package hives should by now have had the second brood chamber installed. The hive population at this point should have recovered or surpassed the 10,000 bee level (the original 3 pound package population). By the end of June the population should grow to the 30,000 to 40,000 range. A queen excluder and honey super could be added at anytime although a package hive will probably not make use of it yet. But also remember these items will need to be removed and replaced when you are verifying the colony is queenright.
In May I installed screened bottom boards on six (6) hives. Periodically I remove the witness boards and count mites. Both the overwintered and package hives had mites. I am experimenting with treatments of both oxalic acid vapor and Oxalic acid alcohol fog. As expected it took three (3) weekly treatments of oxalic acid vapor before the mite drop stopped. I am now waiting to see how quickly mites reappear. Unfortunately, the hive I was performing the oxalic acid alcohol fog test on went queenless and I must repeat that test. (I don't think it was related to the mite treatment) At any rate I will be recording mite drops on these six hives throughout the summer.
I am beginning to see trefoil, staghorn sumac and clover in bloom. This is the start of the main honey flow in central Wisconsin which will run through mid-July. In my strongest overwintered hives the bees have only filled one or two frames. I suspect this was from the black locust bloom, which is now complete. The honey flow to be several weeks slower than previous years.
As a queen raiser I have also been very busy grafting larvae and setting up nucs for queen mating. Here is a photo of my latest attempt. 27 out of 30 queen cells were capped! For me that’s outstanding. This batch of cells are scheduled to emerge on about June 10th. Ideally, the cells should get placed into mating nucs prior to then, so the queens can emerge in a hive. If they emerge while still in the incubator, this causes another set of tasks. So this weekend promises to be a busy time. Oh yeah, I also promised to man the ECWBA booth at Walleye Weekend at the same time. Might be a long day.
To the uninitiated queen raisers sell ripe cells (one to two days prior to emergence), virgin queens and mated queens. The price of each is proportional the risk undertaken by the buyer. Roughly $10 for a cell, $20 for a virgin queen and $30 for a mated queen.
THINGS YET TO DO IN JUNE:
1) Verify my hives are queenright every other week.
2) Monitor the honey supers and add more if needed.
3) I will be treating the new package hives with a ½ dose of formic acid (Formic Pro). I treated the overwintered hives with a ½ dose last month.
4) Inspect the witness boards on hives with screened bottom boards.
5) If you want to increase your apiary hive count any new hive should be started no later than June 21st. This provides them time to grow their population and store honey for the winter. You will not get a honey crop from these new hives.