Beekeeping Blog

A Slow Honey Summer 2021

Here we are sitting at the first Cedar Rapids Farmers Market back in June. I didn’t really plan to go to them myself, but Andrew really enjoys selling the honey and handling all the cash so it became a family event that he doesn’t like to miss. We are still selling off last year’s crop as we prepare for the 2021 harvest season.

Andrew Loves Running the Cashbox at Farmers Market!

When I shared the last blog post, it was at a time when it looked like the bees might put up a lot of honey very quickly. That mostly didn’t happen. It rained substantially and cooled down for days, and that totally killed the honey flow before we had very much stored. Ever since then a minority of hives kept collecting, but most hives did next to nothing in the surplus realm.

The good news is that the bees went onto a heavy flow last week and started whitening one or two boxes with fresh wax as they began significant honey collection again. Once again I’m living in fear of a cooldown, though it is not as severe as the one that occurred earlier in July. A couple of days ago it fell from the 90s F to down around 80 with cooler nights. That can be warm enough to hold a flow, but it makes the situation more questionable. No matter what happens we have to get serious about clearing the hives within ten days to have hope of keeping them healthy enough for overwintering.

We’ve done a lot more mite testing earlier in the year to keep a handle on our trajectory with the parasites. We fortunately have been vigilant enough to hold around half of our hives down to 0-1 mites in the alcohol washes we use as infestation tests. Unfortunately, but predictably, there are also a significant fraction of hives that are up around 3% infestation. Those more infested hives will probably see their mite counts triple and quadruple in 3-5 weeks unless we intervene. Then in 6-8 weeks they will start to crash and traumatically infect the neighbors as they disperse to healthier hives nearby. Right now I’m planning to put in a formic sponge (Formic Pro) in a good number of hives this week to extend the honey collection season and keep the mites under control at the same time. That organic acid is approved for use while honey supers are on the hive. It kills some of the mites under the brood caps, which becomes a crucial factor for controling parasite loads and having healthy fall bees emerge from the comb.

At the moment there is at least hope for significant honey, though it won’t be a good average if the cooler weather kills the flow that has me excited recently. At the least we will forge on with trying to keep the bees healthy for their winter journey to California and the almond orchards.

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