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The Summer That Keeps on Giving ~ The Buzz on Bees with Bee Butler Michael King (August 2015)

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Here we are in the 4th week of July and our British Columbia summer is starting to rival those memorably hot and dry summers of 1986, 1997 and 2004.

When we examined the hives last weekend we found all to be in excellent health and the nectar flows were, to our surprise, still very strong despite the very dry conditions we have experienced over the past 6 weeks. As I alluded to in my last update on July 3rd we are now seeing a slow down in some area of the city where nectar flows are concerned and beekeepers across our city are realizing that they are about 1 month ahead of schedule when it comes to management of the hives and the ‘downsizing’ of hives which normally takes place on or around August 15th is already starting to happen in readiness for the slow and gentle process called “overwintering”.

This means that beekeepers are removing frames for honey harvesting and also reducing hive size by taking away supers leaving a single super. Fall feeding will also begin at this stage with sugar syrup and pollen patties if honey supplies are less than 4 frames of honey and pollen supplies are below 2-3 frames.

The males (drones) in the hives will now have less than 2 months left to remain in the hive before the workers (females) start to force them from the hive in preparation for the inevitable approach of fall. The males will fall prey to either predators or starvation in the ensuing few days post – eviction from the hive ! The remaining hive members will become an “all – female” colony as the workers and the Queen set in for the long period of time ahead of them spent in the hive in a semi-hibernating state.

But let’s not allow ourselves to forget that we still have a considerable amount of time left in our summer and the onset of fall is not official until September 23rd so in the meantime we will continue to check on our hives every 10 days and make sure that our colonies are still healthy and in high enough numbers to be able to enter the overwintering stage of their existence in good shape.
Today marked the first day of rain we have had in Vancouver since early June and it is very much appreciated by all who live here. It may also give an extra spurt of growth and re-growth to some of our plantlife here and encourage reblooming that will help keep our foraging bees with a much needed burst of nectar just as the flows had started to ebb.
We also provided our Bee tour to a dozen or so very interested and intrigued visitors from southern California who know only too well what the word’ drought’ means to people and nature ! They upped our tour numbers to 287 for the season so far which is 50 more than this period last year.

And a word on our Bee hotel which we introduced back in early June. Recent examination show that there are already some unidentified species among the over 500 species of bees alone in British Columbia , who have made the bamboo canes home for their larva and there have been several sightings of very small flying insects in and around the sectioned tree trunks entering the drilled out holes in the wood so life has quickly identified opportunities for nesting locations and taken up home in some parts of the ”hotel”. It is amazing how quickly nature is able to take advantage of opportunities provided them by well meaning hotel employees !

More to follow as we enter the month of August and the traditional summer ‘holiday’ month of the year for many of us.

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