At the beginning of June after much delay due to the poor spring I managed to install my first package of bees. Its now August and quite a few things have happened. The good news is that the brood box is full with twelve frames mostly complete. The bees are busy bringing in pollen and there are some honey stores but the bees have stopped making real progress in terms of expanding the amount of comb. I added a super over two weeks ago and they have still not started building comb there, they have propalised all the joints but no comb. Yesterday, I re-intoduced a frame feeder into the super to encourage comb building. My primary goal this season is to go into the winter with a strong colony, so I’m not worried about a bit of syrup in the supers – I’ll put that into splits next year. I was very pleased to return next day to find the super busy with bees and swarming all over the feeder ( no signs of comb yet ) but what surprised me was that the feeder was virtually empty! They had sucked it dry!
Summer Nectar Dearth
This made me realise that whilst the hive had been busy, the slow down in growth may be being caused by a nectar dearth. My concern for this new colony is that they will not build up sufficient stores to take them through the winter, particularly if the weather prevents them getting out to the Ivy in September. I’m therefore going to continue feeding until they complete one frame of comb in the super. Keeping fingers crossed!
I had heard of the “June Gap” but this “Summer dearth” made me look around carefully. I live in the country in a largly non-arable area. But at this moment, all the meadows have been cut for hay, all the hedges are being cut and really there appears to be very little nectar available. I do see some wild flowers but whilst these are very attractive to bumble bees – I rarely see honey bees on these, I noticed this with the clover – loads of bumble bees, very few honey bees.
In July I had to go in and straighten some of the comb. I’m using 12×14 foundationless hoffman frames, but when the bees create honey comb at the top of the frame, this is often uneaven in thickness and if the frame next to it is not complete, the space encourages them to thicken the honey comb in that direction, throwing off the next comb. I fixed up two of the worst offending combs but the bees were very unhappy at being brushed off the comb and the process felt quite instrusive and VERY sticky! However the result is that the majority of the comb is straight, the remainder, whilst not perfect will have to do until I remove the worst of it next year. The important thing is that all the frames are independant and can be removed if given a little space.