A hot, dry summer is often the backdrop for a good honey production year. This year’s wet, stormy spring kept farmers out of the fields in the Arkansas Delta. Planting was delayed, but a healthy crop of cotton and soybeans followed. These crops account for an abundance of Delta honey. Honey bees gather significant amounts of nectar to make a surplus of honey in strong hives. A surplus of honey can only be produced if the colony is strong and productive, the hive is near a good source of nectar, and the queen is producing large numbers of eggs in the weeks prior to the major nectar flow. The timing of the colony’s population build-up is critical for honey production. If the colony is just starting to expand during the nectar flow, there will probably not be enough of the older worker bees, the foragers, to gather enough nectar to make a surplus of honey.
I tested using additional entrances to my stronger hives this year. The entrances are placed between surplus honey supers at the top of the hives. There is evidence that the entrances allow foragers to deliver their nectar more efficiently. Nectar is taken directly into the honey supers without having to be carried through the brood nest. Upper entrances also allow for extra ventilation at the top of the hive. However, the wooden shims used for the upper entrances violate the concept of bee space. Every opening inside a bee hive should be three eights of an inch. The shim’s wider gap between supers makes a space that the bees fill with honeycomb. In fact, many of the hives equipped with upper entrances became clogged with burr comb in the space between supers. Burr comb, which is any honeycomb that the bees build that does not conform to the shape and order of the hive’s removable frames, tends to break when the hive is opened for inspection or honey harvesting. Today’s picture: burr comb, a sticky mess.--Richard