Summer light

I was a bit surprised to find several hives have almost filled a super that had started as foundation. It is still a bit early for the heavy nectar flow and the weather has been cool and raining. Without much thought, I added an additional super, gave the hive a big smile, a pat on the top cover and went on to the next hive.

Later that day I was thinking of these industrious little creatures and what motivates them to work in wet and cloudy weather.  It struck me that as a modern human I have lost the motivation to make the best of what I have. Everything needed is available to me, I live a charmed life. During the time of cool, overcast and raining weather I have been less productive than my bees. I grumble about what I can’t control while they fill a super using what is available to them.

And what is available to both them and to me? Sunlight, nothing more is needed. The cycle of increasing day length brings nature’s yearly productive cycle to our world. It happens without fail and has been doing so for the entire length of the Earth’s existence. From sunlight everything living gets the opportunity to continue. The bees know this and produce excess supply for the time that the day length cycle turns the opposite direction. We humans have circled our calendars calling this event the first day of summer and know it as the longest day of the year.  Honey bees have an internal clock that tells them that the nectar flow is going to end. It is set by day length. After this long day and slowly at first, the days get progressively shorter. So what?

Plants also note this change and go into their next phase shutting down blooms and nectar production. With days getting shorter and nectar flow slowing, brood production peaks. By mid-July limited resources are available, brood production is declining and the hive has been robbed of some winter supply by the beekeeper. That’s why we keep bees right?

Proper management in July will help the hive survive the next eight months. Four months to get ready for eight months. Hive loss numbers for 2015 are suggesting that beekeepers lost 44% of their hives and that the larger amount of hives is now lost in late summer and fall. Imagine 2 hives and only one survives or 10 hives and only 5 survive. The math is easy. Additional information from these surveys is also suggesting that the larger losses are those hives that do not have any mite control plan.  July’s declining bee numbers coupled with increasing mite population sets the trap for dead hives next spring. Dead hives won’t be helped by increasing day length. Dead or weak hives can’t start brood production. It is just that simple. July mite control is imperative. Be good to you bees so they can be good to you.