Early June has brought on a strong clover bloom and plenty of heat to let the bees have plenty of foraging opportunity. A lot of times we don’t get the right conditions for yellow sweet clover to yield anything significant in our area. The white sweet clover that blooms a few weeks later is generally a better prospect in late June and July. This year the bees are thick on all of the clovers including the yellow sweet clover.
Until recently, a lot of our eastern Iowa energy was invested in nuc and single production for 2021 customers. It was a cool slow spring with limited natural foraging, which presented a range of moderate obstacles in getting the new bees strong on schedule. It was the most disappointing dandelion flow in years. Anyway we spent some extra time with those hive units and got them distributed in reasonable shape in mid to late May. Our goal is to have them distributed by roughly May 15 and we started right around that date. Now we have a few dozen nucs left that are maturing for folks that need later bees or didn’t put in an early enough preorder to be toward the front of the list.
Now we’re finishing up the distribution of hives to their summer locations, continuing with a few late splits, doubling singles, and supering many hives. It’s a transition time of year when several operations are going on at once. It’s tiring but fulfilling. We’ve also spent more time and effort on spring mite control to be in a healthier position in August and September. As mites become more challenging to control, it requires extra effort to stay ahead or a bunch of dead bees result. My main recommendation to beekeepers who ask why their bees die despite treatment: please do alcohol washes or ether rolls before and after varroa treatment to see if the application was effective, and if it was effective enough, to clean up the parasite load to nominal levels. We had a gut punch last year when the parasite load tripled/quadrupled while Apivar strips were in many of our hives last summer (after harvesting at the end of July). That’s all to state that the primary lessons of the last few years have involved recognizing that mite control is getting harder, and it has become especially important to test consistently before and AFTER your main treatment cycle is well underway. It’s always easier to say than do.
Our number one goal for 2021 is healthy bees. It slows down, and sometimes impedes, going for the largest possible honey crop, but we will keep everyone updated on how that goes too. For now it is a joy to see the bees thriving in the heat and flowers.