A few weeks ago I commented that the honey flow was about to begin and that my hives were heavy with bees but very light on stores. A quick check last Sunday (7/18) revealed that the bees have been very busy. The honey supers on all three of my colonies are almost completely plugged out. The weaker colony with only one honey super had every crack in that super filled, and the bees were drying honey in cells between the hatching bees down in the brood nest. The bees have easily brought in 100 pounds/colony in the last six weeks. That’s about 2.5 pounds (almost a quart) every day on each hive!
At one point when I was teenager I thought about becoming a professional beekeeper. One year I had ten hives that produced over six hundred pounds of honey. That’s when I realized that honey is heavy! Manipulating the colonies is fun until you are hefting 70 pound boxes over your head. I was reminded of this on Sunday because I needed to put on more supers. I wanted to put a fresh box with just foundation between two full honey supers so the bees would be more inclined to fill it. That required the full-honey-box press over your head maneuver. I’m glad I don’t do that all day! All the colonies are getting another super and I’ll have to scramble to put together a few more frames.
The blackberries are all but done flowering at this point, so the main honey flow is coming to a close. We could still get more honey, but I doubt it will come with the intensity it has for the last few weeks. At the end of the season its nice to crowd the space a little so that the bees will naturally fill their brood nest with honey for the winter. As soon as the days start getting shorter, the bees seem to know that their opportunity to reproduce has past. So although I have added another super of foundation on the top, the bees may well just begin their seasonal compression of the brood nest and begin filling the bottom chambers with stores.
A further check a little deeper this morning (7/25) shows the typical season progression. Brood is present throughout the two full depth brood chambers, but the nice tight concentrated pattern typical in the spring has given way to sprawl. With stores coming in fast and furious, pollen and fresh nectar stored throughout the brood nest prevents the queen from laying in every adjacent cell.
Before you know it, the bee populations will start to decline as the bees transition to preparation for winter. How quickly summer is over with the bees!