5 Early Summer Tasks to Keep Your Bee Colony Safe & Growing

June is a fine time to be a bee, but the start of summer brings fast growth on many fronts. Here are things you can do as a beekeeper to protect your colony.

PHOTO: Liralen Li/Flickr

Toward the end of this month we welcome the start of summer and, with it, copious blooms and food sources for bees. Depending on where you live, most locations are in the “safe zone,” weatherwise, by this time. Unless your hive is struggling, or you buy a late-season nuc, feeding should be optional at this time of year. That said, you know your bees and microclimate best, so use your best judgment.

Assuming things look good otherwise, here are several tasks to consider and complete during June:

1. Check Electric Fencing & Keep Weeds Down

The alternating heat and rain of summer in most North American locations means things are growing—fast. While that’s wonderful for the nectar producing plants your bees rely on, it also means grass and weeds take off at breakneck speed. Mow around the apiary, and weed or trim the grass and plants around electric fencing. The growth might short out the fence and render it ineffective. Just because food sources are aplenty for larger animals, too, doesn’t mean your bees are off limits. Keep those fences active.

2. Watch for Pesticides

Because gardens grow quickly, this is the time of year homeowners use copious amounts of chemicals. This is bad news for your bees, all pollinators and every garden, truly. Check in with your neighbors this month to see whether they’re spraying, and when. If relations are good, perhaps you can educate them on the importance of cutting off our dependence on pesticides, herbicides and weed killers then finding other ways to remove weeds—or to embrace them.

3. Monitor Honey Stores if You Plan to Harvest

The first rule of honey harvest is: Make sure the bees have enough before you take any. A late spring or midsummer harvest is wonderful for capturing the taste of certain short-lived blooms, but remember that summer is when bees build up population and stores. Always check that they are growing healthily and have enough honey before you harvest.

4. Plant Sunflowers & Other Flowering Plants

In many locales, it’s not too late to plant now for a later-summer bloom. In fact, timing your plantings of bee-friendly flowers and herbs is a wonderful way to give them a boost and keep native pollinators around all season. Get to know your area’s blooming schedule for wildflowers and flowering trees, and fill in the gaps with your own pollinator garden.

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5. Plan to Make a Split

Making a split—essentially taking half of one colony to create another—is one of the most effective ways to increase the number of colonies you keep. In the next column, we’ll explore in-depth ways of making a split. For now, gather up all the materials you’ll need so you’re ready when it’s time: a new, complete hive (don’t reuse woodenware unless its yours and you know it’s free of diseases and pests); a new location, fully set up; and some extra frames of honey, or extra feeders in case the split needs some support.

June is a wonderful time to be a beekeeper. Enjoy the cool mornings and warm afternoons. Enjoy watching your bees float from flower to flower, knowing they’re building up their colonies strong. Soon, you’ll be enjoying honey together, too.

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