Friday, July 20, 2018


Here in the area of ECWBA beekeepers we are entering what is commonly called the summer dearth as it pertains to the honey flow.  The sweet clover, trefoil, and flowering tree honey flows are now complete.   Probably 90% of the honey in your supers has been gathered.  From here on out the bees will consume any remaining nectar almost as fast as they gather it. 

Like in anything beekeeping related there are exceptions.  Alfalfa can still provide a honey flow if the neighboring farmer has not done his 2nd or 3rd cutting yet.  There are also two other exceptions.  Purple loosestrife and knapweed are two invasive plant species that will provide nectar in late July and August.  Purple loosestrife is spreading into marshes and other wet areas.  I have seen it in the Oshkosh and Berlin areas.  Knapweed is commonly found on roadsides.  Although good for honey bees, please DON’T plant these two invasive species.   However, the bees will happily gather the nectar.  After all, the honey bee is an invasive species too.  

The dearth also triggers a reduction in brood rearing in the bee hive.  Some beekeepers take advantage of this and apply mite treatments.  As the amount of brood declines the proportion of phoretic mites increases and this make the overall mite population more susceptible to treatment.  Please remember if your honey supers are still on the hive the only approved treatment is formic acid.  Treating now, in theory, helps the hive have lower mite loads prior to the time period when they begin raising the winter “fat body” bees.   Low mite loads will result in winter bees with lower virus and bacterial infection rates.

Some beekeepers choose to remove and extract their honey in early August.  This allows use of other mite treatments since the honey will not then be contaminated.   

The summer dearth will be eased by the appearance of fall flowers.  In our area these include asters, coneflowers and goldenrod.  In some years goldenrod can be a source of secondary honey flow.   Strong fall honey flows are usually very localized. 

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