August Newsletter – A Busy Month

Hello Beekepers!

Just as the swarming season ends AND
The main honey flow is over AND
Queenie is slowing down in her egg production AND
The summer forage bees are dying naturally –
There’s still a lot of work left to be done by the beekeeper.

Tips for the Coming Month

Native honeybee on dandelion

August is a very busy month and thankfully we’ll have honey to harvest as the honey flow over the past few weeks has been incredible. We waited for a break, as I noticed that the bees and the colony development were at least three weeks behind during late spring and early summer. But how the girls foraged when given the chance! The buzz in the garden was terrific — the orchestra of nature.

I’ve stopped supering now, thereby enabling and encouraging the bees to fill all available space in the super combs. Full frames make for easier extracting.

When the flow stops, I leave the bees alone for a week or two as they can get a little cranky, having little to do. They will eventually get used to this and then the beekeeper can remove the ripened crop. The bees will, however, continue to forage for later flowering plants, e.g., thistle, rosebay willowherb, fuchsia, and many more.

Clearing Bees from the Supers

So, how do you clear the bees from the supers? You certainly don’t want to bring thousands of bees to your kitchen or beehouse!

I generally use a clearing board. This resembles a crown board, but has a little apparatus attached to it enabling the bees to move down a one-way system from the supers. There are many different types available and they all work in a similar way.

The clearing board is placed on top of the brood box and the supers are put back on the hive again over this board. I put on the clearing board in the evening and remove it the following day. Bees, as we know, are very clever, and if the clearing board is left on too long, they will eventually find a way to beat the apparatus and the beekeeper and return to the supers again.

Please don’t do what I’ve done in the past: yes, I placed the clearing board on the wrong way round, and, as I whistled my way to the hives to collect the supers, found all the poor girls imprisoned in the supers having no way out. They were released and suffered no ill effects, but as for me — what a wally!

Extracting Honey

I try to extract the honey as soon as I possibly can. It’s much easier when the honey is still warm. It flows more freely and is also easier to strain.

We will be offering you an opportunity to experience the extracting process during August, dates and times to be confirmed. We will have a few evenings of extracting so as to keep numbers to a minimum in each session. Hopefully, we’ll have some honey ready for jarring so that you can also experience that and maybe be able to bring home a jar of honey too.

Uncapping a honey frame with an uncapping fork
Uncapping a honey frame with an uncapping fork

Feeding Colonies

It is very important to feed your colonies after removing the crop. One gallon of 1:1 syrup is what I feed, and if the colony is strong, I give them another super or brood box filled with undrawn foundation. This beautiful fresh foundation can be used in spring and helps the colony build up.

Doing this with a strong colony also gives the bees something to do. They have been working hard all summer and then thrown into retirement. The bees like to be industrious!

Treating for Varroa

I always advise beginners to treat with the appropriate medication for varroa after the honey has been taken from the hive. One treatment option is ‘Apiguard’, which comes in a tray which is placed in the hive. The bees chew the substance and thymol vapours are released. The vapour kills the varroa mites but does not harm the bees. You have studied the life-cycle of the varroa, so it is not surprising that this process needs to be repeated exactly 14 days later.

Two varroa mites visible on a bee larva
Two varroa mites visible on a bee larva

When using any medication, it is so, so important to read the directions and follow diligently. Always remember that unhealthy bees in autumn, means weaker colonies in spring.

The Start of the Beekeeping Year?

Once the harvest is over is when I regard my beekeeping year as commencing. Well-tended autumn and winter bees mean much healthier, stronger and happier bees in spring, and this inevitably leads to higher honey yields and fewer headaches for the beekeeper.

Coming Up

As mentioned above, we will be offering association members an opportunity to experience the extracting process during August — dates and times to be confirmed, so keep an eye out!

Don’t forget to join us for our next Zoom meeting on Tuesday August 17th at 7pm. Our meetings are on the third Tuesday of every month and we usually have a guest speaker, so pencil us into your diaries and be sure not to miss out.

Happy Beekeeping!

Mairead Love & the team at FABKA