API of the Month

Mathieu Domecq

Editor-in-chief of the API blog of the month

In June, you need to keep a close eye on your food stocks! Spring has been very rainy this year it has been one of the toughest in the last 10 years. In this issue, you will learn the scientific reason why bees sting, find out more about the stages of beehive transhumance and, finally, some tips for a healthy beehive.

Did you know that 8,000 hours of work are needed for a colony to produce 100 g of honeycomb! (Source: Michaud family)

Mathieu Domeq

This month’s work 

June and July are supposed to be warmer. In any case, beekeepers will not have been able to harvest any honey — or only a small amount. With little nectar and pollen entering the beehives, the bees use up half their reserves! Here is a summary of the beekeeping work:

Feed the colonies: I usually recommend giving Apiinvert syrup if there is a deficiency. But given the volumes needed to compensate for this and because I cannot go to all the beehives all the time (like my colleagues who have a lot of beehives), I choose Apifonda sugar paste as well. By giving them an extra loaf of sugar paste, they can keep supplies longer while boosting the colony, in addition to a little syrup that they can store.

A lack of food can have an large impact on winter storage. Without nectar coming in now, there will be few foragers this summer to stock up for the autumn.

Choose the API feeding range
Choose the API feeding range

– beehive transhumance: some regions will enjoy beautiful flowering in the following month. We will have lime trees, characteristic of menthol honey; chestnut trees in the forest with a strong honey taste; and lavender in Provence with its vast expanses that bees love: all these are attractive sources!

Beekeepers can produce quality honey by moving their beehives near crops or forests to obtain a single-flower honey. Place the new super when the beehives arrive, once 10 to 20% of the flowers have opened.

– Trapping hornets: by the end of the month, hornets will start to appear again. Start getting traps and bait to protect your beehives.

The honey flowers of the month: lime, clover, alder buckthorn and lavender.


Why do bees sting?

Naturally, defending the beehive is a matter of course for bees! But bees defend their colony above all and are prepared to die for it. A single sting is enough to kill a domestic bee. It sacrifices itself for others.

By stinging, the bee releases an alarm pheromone that encourages other bees to attack as well. A team of researchers from the University of Toulouse found that the smell of poison (called isoamyl acetate) increases serotonin and dopamine levels in their brains. Guardian bees thwart the threat by stinging. When foragers smell this alarm pheromone, they are prompted to sting.

The study concludes that the variation in serotonin or dopamine directly affects bees’ stinging behaviour. They are more likely to sting when serotonin increases in their brain.

Guardian bees on the flight board, ready to sting in the event of danger.
Guardian bees on the flight board, ready to sting in the event of danger.

Transhuming your beehives

It is often thought that transhumance is a job reserved for professional beekeepers. Yet it is not. Many hobby beekeepers have a try, for the pleasure of harvesting a different honey, or because they have no choice due to the lack of flowers in their area.

Choosing the right location is a decisive factor for successful transhumance. Of course, the beekeeper will have to reach a agreement with a farmer to place their beehives there. On the one hand, the beekeeper’s beehives will be stocked up with reserves; and, on the other, the farmer will see their yield improved from bee pollination.

This is how you do it:

Find a sufficient supply of nectar (honey) and determine the duration of flowering.

Keep a safety distance from fertilisation areas (10 km), neighbouring beekeepers (500 m), public buildings (100 m) and public roads (20 m).

Check your insurance for liability and the theft of beehives.

Transport the bees once night falls (or early in the morning) to have as many foragers as possible inside the boxes. Make sure the colonies are sufficiently ventilated with ventilated floors. Once there, make sure your beehives display your NAPI number or a sign. If necessary, protect the beehives with a pasture fence.

Now everything is in place and the colonies can give you a beautiful harvest.


Recognising good storage in the frames

How do I assess my colony’s reserves? This is a major question for novice beekeepers. This season, the ideal situation in a Dadant hive with 10 frames is to have at least 6 frames occupied by the brood (eggs, larvae and nymphs). On each of these frames, you should see a pollen crown, then a honey crown on top of the frames. This gives the bees access to reserves right next to the brood. The last four frames will be storage frames. There should usually be the equivalent of one frame of pollen only (with several colours indicating good food diversity) and three honey frames (nectar and capped honey).

On this frame, you can see a beautiful brood in the centre and a large honey crown. There may be lack of pollen in between.
On this frame, you can see a beautiful brood in the centre and a large honey crown. There may be lack of pollen in between.

As usual, share your photos with us. We shall publish them on our website from social media with the hashtags #apifonda #apiinvert!

We shall be back next month on the API blog with your faithful partner, Les Ruchers De Mathieu!


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Photos ©lesruchersdemathieu

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