May is here and that means temps are rising. This month we need to make sure our hives have shade, especially in the afternoon. We also need to have a reliable water in place for our bees. As backyard beekeepers we need to do everything we can to accommodate the needs of our hives so that our neighbors feel comfortable with our bees. If your water source dries up for even a day the bees will be forced to look elsewhere.
If you have drip irrigation, it is easy to add a line to a birdbath or bucket filled with corks or rocks. Then the water refills each time your irrigation runs. Having a fountain or pond is also a great idea, and the bees will LOVE it!
This year the weather in Arizona has been a bit crazy. We had a lot of rain and wildflowers in the spring, with colder than normal temps. May seems to be on track though. Typically in Phoenix, our average highs are 94 degrees and the average low is 67 degrees. We will have several days around 100 degrees. The tough part for us is that we normally get no chance of rain in May. This usually marks the beginning of our dearth time, which runs June through August, unless we get a really good monsoon season in July.
What to do in Your Arizona Garden for Bees
Flowers to Sow or Transplant: African Daisy, Angelonia, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Gaillardia, Marigold, *Mexican Sunflowers, *Portulaca, Salvia, *Zinnia
Vegetable and Herb Starts/Seeds: Armenian Cucumber, *Basil (African Blue Basil is a bee favorite), Black-eyed Peas, Eggplant, Gourds, *Hibiscus Sabdariffa, *Luffa, Melons, Mexican Oregano, Okra, Peppers, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato Slips, Tomatillos, Watermelon, Winter Squash, Yardlong Beans
*Starred items do particularly well through the summer for bees.
Important to Note
Fertilize Citrus around Memorial Day. Make sure your plants have enough water. Using a 4-6 inch layer of wood mulch will do wonders for your plants.
What to do in Your Arizona Hive
Established colonies should be bursting this time of the year. However, if you have new colonies you will need to be ready to feed them. Each deep brood box should have 5 deep frames of honey or 10 medium frames of honey to help them through the summer. I am using single deeps with a medium box on top for their honey. When they reach half that amount, begin feeding them until they reach that capacity.
If your hives have enough honey for themselves (10 medium frames of honey for a single deep, or 10 medium frames of honey for a double deep), then you can harvest whatever is left. In May we have Palo Verde, Mesquite, Ironwood, and acacias that are flowering.
If you want to have a lot of wax to use for crafts and projects, then scraping your frames and crushing the comb will give you that resource. Just keep in mind that the bees will have to consume 8 pounds of honey or sugar syrup to produce 1 pound of wax. You many have to feed your bees more if you go this route.
If you have a honey extractor, then you can spin your honey, filter the wax cappings out and give the empty frames right back to the bees to fill up again. If there is not a good flow of nectar however, you can store those frames in a freezer or airtight container. In the Fall or next Spring, your bees will have a head start to fill them up again with honey.
Storing Empty Honey Frames
Once you harvest your honey, you may be left with empty drawn out comb that you don’t know what to do with. One thing is for sure, if you leave them out the wax moths will eat them. Before storing them, put them back on your hives for a day or so to let the bees clean out all the honey so they are stored dry.
Here are some ways you can store honey frames until you need them again:
- Freeze them and store in clear totes in the shade (unless you have a lot of wax moths around)
- Store in the freezer if you have a dedicated upright or chest freezer they will fit in.
- Spray frames with BT and store as in number 2.
- Use para-Moth in stacked boxes in the shade or containers.
Arizona Honeybee Pest Management
This month you need to keep an eye on your Varroa populations as well as those pesky ants.
Varroa is something we constantly monitor regularly because it can obliterate your colony. At this time of year the bee population and the varroa population is going up at about the same rate. At the end of May our bee populations often begin to decline while varroa populations keep increasing. Once you are finished harvesting honey, if you are doing so, this is a great time to do a mite check. Treat if you have a 2% (6 mites per 300 bees) and check again in June. I lost many hives in July, which could have been mitigated if I had checked in May and June.
Ants are also beginning to be a problem for our hives this time of year. If you see trails of ants going in and out of your hives, you need to do something about it. You can try Amdro ant baits, Diatomacious Earth around your hive stand, or use some sort of oil barrier under your hive stand legs.
Let’s keep our hives happy and healthy!
I’m here for you.
As always, if you have any questions about beekeeping in Arizona, or for resources you need to find here, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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