The month of August has been terrific, with a honey flow that surpassed any expectations. The girls worked hard and I’d imagine that their main source of nectar was from the clover and blackberry as the resultant honey is so sweet and sparkly golden in colour. They worked tirelessly and brought in so much that I ran out of supers and had to resort to using broodboxes.
When the nectar flow slows, lots of jobs in the hive cease, e.g. wax making, comb building, etc. Hive temperature is high, the population is high and the bees are on the defensive protecting their stores from robbers, e.g. wasps and beekeepers! It can be both a tricky and stingy job removing the honey-laden supers. I even wear strong gloves for the procedure.
For those of you who attended one of our extracting evenings, I hope you learned and enjoyed. The next job will be to prepare the honey for jarring and I will endeavour to cover that topic next month.
Getting back to the predatory wasp: they really can do awful damage to the colony and, while not intending to harm any living creature, bees come first! I realise that the wasp plays a role controlling pests such as greenfly, but at this time of year they have been thrown out of their nest and are bound to die anyway. To hasten this stage I put a wasp trap on every hive. Waste jam and water mixed is my recipe. Fill a jar to halfway and pierce the lid with a knife, making a space for wasps to enter the jar. And NO the bees do not fall for it, being much too clever. It’s cheap, simple and surprisingly efficient. Some use sweet drinks, beer, cider, etc., in the recipe, but I make jam every year and rarely get it right — hence the abundance of waste jam yearly!
Important Jobs for September
September is the last active month for beekeeping and there are some very important jobs to be done.
Decrease the size of the hive entrance. Having a smaller door opening to protect makes the bees’ life easier and makes it easier to defend the hive from predators.
Ensure that the colony has ample food. Feed syrup after you harvest, despite the fact that the bees still may be foraging from fuschia, rosebay willowherb and more. Be vigilant that the hive has stores. Practice ‘hefting’ the hive and if it feels light – FEED! (Hefting means lifting the back of the hive to judge weight.) You can feed right up to the end of the month if needed. Use a 2:1 syrup solution at this time, i.e., 2 kilograms of sugar to 1 litre of water.
Treat for Varroa. I have my first Apiguard tray on, and when you inspect afterwards don’t be surprised if there are little or no eggs/larvae. The queen automatically slows down at this time of year and the Apiguard intervention will halt egg production. I often give them another little feed of a 2:1 syrup solution after treatment is finished if the hive feels light. This seems to encourage queenie to commence laying again.
So how much space does a colony need to over winter?
- Do I overwinter my colony in 1 broodbox? (i.e., the bottom one)
- Do I overwinter the colony in a broodbox and a super? (Often refereed to as a brood and a half)
- Do I overwinter the colony in 2 broodboxes?
I generally overwinter the bees in one broodbox unless the colony is extremely strong. For many of you who started beekeeping this year with a nuc I suggest that a single broodbox should be fine.
Inspect Your Inspection Board
Most hives now have open mesh floors and, as the temperature decreases, I reinstall the screen board. This board is invaluable and enables you to monitor without having to remove the hive roof. When you pull out this board check it carefully.
- Discarded wax will give you a rough idea of bee population and cluster size.
- Mouse and pest droppings – you know what that’s about
- You might see little bits of pollen which is always a good sign.
- Lastly, it’s easy to keep an eye on the Varroa mite drop. You may have to treat in December.
Just be careful to ensure that the hive has adequate ventilation. There are several ways to achieve same.
Your hive should be weatherproof and in good condition. I generally insulate the top of the hive by placing a piece of slate on top of the crownboard opening. This curtails the hot air from escaping upwards and creates a circular airflow keeping the hive very well ventilated. Coolness can be damaging, but moisture laden surroundings can kill.
Finally, keep the outside environs of the hive weed-free. Unlike myself who has a gorse bush near the back of one of the hives. Give me a sting anytime!
For those of you who extracted honey – congratulations! For those who do not yet have a hive, next year hopefully will be another bumper year.
We look forward to seeing you at our next online FABKA gathering on the 21st September at 7pm. Look out for an email from Michael with the details. In the meantime, take care!
Mairead Love & the team at FABKA