Through the month of July I sold the last of my “spring” nucs and was able to spend more time on other aspects of my beekeeping.

My honey production hives in Hermon and at Bangor International Airport have needed a steady supply of empty supers (boxes) of empty comb so they would have space to store more honey. Through late June and much of July they were filling a super per week with honey from white clover, sweet clover, vetch and a variety of wildflowers.

In these hives, which each contain about 60,000-70,000 bees, the jobs are allotted according to the age of the bee. The eldest bees, age 3 weeks or more, are field bees. These are the bees that go out and forage for protein rich pollen and sugar rich nectar from the local flora. Once they have found as much as they can carry, they hurry home to unload. Once they arrive at the hive, they will do a waggle dance, which will convey to other field bees what they have found and where they have found it. The more enthusiastically they dance the more bees will follow their directions. Then they will hand the food over to their younger sister house bees, which will take the nectar or pollen and store it in the cells of the comb.

Some of the house bees will be in charge of air conditioning the hive. They will be stationed at the entrance and at various points around the hive and will fan their wings, creating a flow of fresh air, stopping the hive from overheating. The air movement will also evaporate water from the sugary nectar solution stored in the cells. This concentrates the sugars until it contains less than 20 percent water. At this point it is now cured honey and the house bees will seal the cell with white beeswax. Once a super full of combs is full of cured honey it’s ready to be harvested.

Now that the clover honey flow is finished I am harvesting supers full of very light-colored, mild tasting honey.

In most areas in Maine the weeks between July 20 and Aug. 15 or so can be quite lean. Many plants are in bloom, but few produce much nectar. Hives can lose a lot of weight during this dearth. That is, unless the beekeeper has the space and foresight to plant nectar producing plants such as buckwheat, to bloom in this period. By mid-August, the goldenrod will start to produce nectar, which will continue till the first heavy frost.

I also have been able to get out to a number of beekeeping clients and students who needed a home beekeeping tutorial. There is nothing like opening a hive with an experienced beekeeper to help a beginner see what’s happening in their hive. Some folks just need a refresher on what they are looking at — open brood, capped brood, cells full of pollen, finding the queen, etc. Others may fear their hive is queenless. This usually turns out to be the result of the hive recently swarming as the new queen takes some days before she mates and starts to lay eggs. In most cases within two weeks there is new brood in the hive.

Sometimes their hive is on the brink of swarming. Then we need to think on our feet, because we need to decide right away if we should cut out the queen cells to stop the swarm leaving, whether to let the hive swarm and hope they catch it or to split the hive to make a second. The option we choose depends on the beekeeper’s needs and plans for their apiary.

Others may need help deciding if they can take honey from the hive. Nothing makes new beekeepers happier than harvesting their first honey. They will bring their super full of honey to my barn, where we will cut the wax cappings off the combs and put them in the extractor. They turn the handle and watch the honey flow from the combs down the sides of the extractor and out the gate valve at the bottom. Then we bottle it up before they proudly drive home with boxes of full honey jars.

Peter Cowin, aka The Bee Whisperer, is president of the Penobscot County Beekeepers Association. His activities include honey production, pollination services, beekeeping lessons, sales of bees and bee equipment, and the removal of feral bee hives from homes and other structures. Check out “The Bee Whisperer” on Facebook, email petercowin@tds.net or call 299-6948.