Ian Campbell, Newcastle & District BKA and BBKA Social Media Manager

This can be another especially busy month. Watch out – many colonies can still be primed for swarming when we get a few warm days.

Continue inspecting weekly or more frequently with higher-risk colonies.

Stay vigilant for queen cells and swarming signs. The timing of the peak swarm season varies from year to year, so be prepared to act quickly to prevent swarming and have spare kit available.

The BBKA News Swarming Special Issue and a laminated guide to the Pagden method are available from the BBKA shop at https://tinyurl.com/bdey6ukr 

This may be the last chance this season for any comb changes.

Swarm collection
Keep your kit on standby.

Swarm collection during the season can be a marathon not a sprint. By June some swarm collectors may be struggling with the number of call-outs and ‘swarm fatigue’ can start to set in.

Brood space
Consider if colonies have enough space for brood-laying.

June should see the peak brood population. Is a single brood box sufficient? Single National brood boxes are often too small for a strong colony.

If you do move to double brood, it’s often best to check the lower box first when inspecting.

Adding supers

Continue to add supers as required for the nectar flow before a colony gets congested. Adding supers with foundation may keep ‘teenage’ bees busy and some feel this is useful as a swarm deterrent.

If adding supers with foundation, this new box normally goes directly above the queen excluder. Wax is often drawn better when closer to the warmer brood area. If a new super has drawn comb, it can go on top of existing ones.

New queens

With luck, some early artificial swarms or queen rearing efforts will start to see new queens emerging and, in time, they will be laying. Watch out for signs of drone-laying queens and, on occasion, drone-laying workers if things haven’t gone as planned.

The ‘June gap’

In some years there is a June gap in forage. Spring flowers are over and summer flowers yet to emerge. This can be made worse by poor weather.

Monitor stores of all colonies but especially of smaller nucs and splits which may not have much in reserve.

Be prepared to feed thin syrup if required. Watch you don’t contaminate any stored honey with sugar syrup!


Cut back weeds growing in front of entrances. This advice may change if yellow-legged Asian hornets become established.

If using a strimmer, it is probably best to wear PPE while doing the job as the vibration of such tools can provoke some colonies.

Yellow-legged Asian hornets

June can see the start of a transition between primary and secondary nests.
Selective spring queen trapping is recommended to cease by June.
Workers can start to appear in greater numbers, but predation is unlikely to be a major issue yet.

Monitoring and reporting any sightings are essential. Preparing apiary defences in affected areas may be a wise precaution.

Varroa planning: estimating infestation and treatments

Monitoring and integrated pest management (IPM) are at the heart of Varroa control, helping to keep Varroa loads below the critical 1,000 mites per colony. This may be a good time for an early summer Varroa check and a look for deformed wing virus (photo below).

Natural mite drop monitoring (photo opposite) gives a simple ballpark guide to Varroa levels but lacks the accuracy of other methods.

Currently the NBU suggests a daily average mite drop of 10 as the threshold level to consider using a treatment. The NBU’s Varroa calculator has been discontinued and the Managing Varroa leaflet has been updated. See https://tinyurl.com/bdz9w6sp 

Plan your autumn Varroa treatment and buy supplies as required. The issue of Varroa treatment and building natural resistance can prompt polarised opinions. Look for evidence for your choices and consider varying treatments from year to year to avoid mite resistance.

If treatment is needed in some colonies but not others in an apiary it may be best to treat all colonies at the same time. Varroa can easily move between colonies on drones or via drifting or robbing. Most Varroa treatments cannot be used when honey supers are in place so read the manufacturers’ usage instructions very carefully.

Keep a Veterinary Medicines Directorate record of any treatments used. See https://tinyurl.com/37prhs5j 


Remove any sealed spring honey in frames/supers for extraction, but do leave sufficient for the bees.
Oilseed rape (OSR) honey needs very prompt extraction. If not jarring this straight after extraction, have a plan for how you will prepare it later once it has set. Making soft set honey is one option and there are various methods to do this.

Replace frames/supers with spares so during a flow the colony doesn’t get ‘honey-bound’ while supers are off being extracted. Writing a number on supers with chalk makes it easy to return them to the same hive/apiary.

Drip trays under removed supers saves a lot of cleaning up.

Cleaning extractors first with cold water to remove wax, then warm to remove honey, works well. Try not to lose the ball bearing in the sump when you tip the extractor up to clean it!

All photos are by Ian Campbell except for the worker honey bee with deformed wing virus, which is courtesy of the Animal and Plant Health Agency, ©Crown copyright.