August in Your Apiary

How Many Supers Do You Have?

How Many Supers Do You Have? Leave a Comment at the foot of this piece.

The nectar bonanza is  nearly over!

By varying accounts, the flow is tailing off, if not already ended, after the extreemly hot and dry July weather.

The bees were certainly busy in the heat whilst we were wilting. There have been numerous reports of previously placid colonies becoming more than a little techy by the end of the month. That could well be explained as an understandable consequence of all the extra work they have had to do the keep temperatures in the hive DOWN ! 

Meanwhile, for beekeepers, August remains a busy month of the year! Perhaps avoid adding to your bees frustrations by whipping off ALL their honey stores at once, or leaving them crammed into brood boxes for days whilst supers are off being extracted. Maintain some continuity of space.  

Preparations for Honey Extraction

To ensure you don’t extract “unripened honey” (i.e. the water content is too high & the extracted honey can ferment), only extract capped super frames. Uncapped frames should be consolidated into a single super and returned to the hive directly over the queen excluder. The supers with sealed frames still need to be cleared of bees before final removal for extraction. If there are only a few bees, these can easily be brushed or, shaken off each frame in front of the hive. However, the usual method is to use a “Clearer Board”.

When all the supers for extraction have been removed & securely stored (see ‘Robbing” later in this article) it’s time to plan for honey extraction, varroa treatment & also feeding to build up stores for the winter.

Honey Extraction

There isn’t a single way to extract honey. It very much depends on what equipment you have, how many supers need to be extracted and what facilities you have in which to carry out extraction. With this in mind read more on “Extracting Honey

Storing Your Supers

Once extraction of supers is completed, what do you do with the supers full of wet/sticky frames? A numbering system to associate each super with its originating colony and return the wet supers to their respective hives to clean them up is a good idea. Return wet supers to hives at dusk, to minimise robbing…to understand why, read the next paragraph on “Robbing”. After a few days the “dry” supers can be cleared of bees and then removed and stacked for winter storage. Supers can be stacked and stored outside (or, inside a shed). Although supers (which have not contained brood) are less vulnerable to wax moth than honey supers, it’s still wise to protect them from possible wax moth damage. Tape the joins between supers to seal them, add a crown board (and seal the feeder holes) and top off with a roof. Some recommend fumigating with acetic acid or, sulphur but, the personal health risks from exposure to acetic acid, in particular are significant. It’s wise not to store used brood comb, if possible since, these frames are particularly vulnerable to wax moth.

Robbing

Colony populations are at their annual peak but, we are now at a period when there may be little nectar around to keep your bees busy. If not already in place, it’s time to put in reduced entrance blocks to make it easier for colonies to defend their hives against robbing by bees from other colonies and also wasps. Weaker colonies are particularly prone to robbing. Make sure that there are no other ways for robbing bees to get into a hive. Look out for growing numbers of bees around the sides, rear ir underside of a hive. Have they found a ‘back entrance into the hive. See what happens when there is a serious case of robbing!

Consequently, it is essential to monitor the integrity of your hives, avoid spillage of sugar solution & ensure supers awaiting extraction are sealed up and moved to a bee and wasp proof location.

Wasps are now increasing in numbers around the hive and can be a particular problem for weak colonies. Early August is a good time to put out some wasp traps to control the population. Click Here for a cheap, easy DIY construction of a wasp trap. Don’t use honey in your wasp trap or, it will also become a bee trap!

Be also on the lookout for hornets, particularly the Yellow Legged Hornet. Find out more about them here. Asian Hornet Update.

Varroa Treatment & Winter Feeding

Yes, it is only August …. and preparations for Winter do already need to be talked about!

When all the supers have finally been removed and stored for the winter, it’s time to plan for varroa treatment of each colony. Apiguard is still the defacto standard for  treatment once the honey crop has been removed and no further crop (for human consumption) is expected. However, there are an increasing number of proprietary treatments so, check with your RBKA contacts which are the most effective. The most common treatment (Apiguard), usually starts in the first half of August so that winter feeding can be completed well before the end of October (when it can get too cold for bees to take down & process sugar syrup). For comprehensive information about managing varroa and it’s treatment read the FERA document Managing Varroa,

If all goes to plan, you are about to steal all or, most of the bees’ winter food stores. Some beekeepers leave a full honey super on the hive, others take all the supers off and feed sugar syrup for winter stores. There is no right or, wrong approach.

There are now only one or, possibly two, significant crops of nectar for bees to add to their winter stores before the onset of winter.

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan Balsam

Honeybee on Ivy

Honeybee on Ivy

They are Himalayan Balsam (primarily alongside water courses) in late July-September and Ivy in September-October.

Due to the weather variability in October, the ivy crop can be unpredictable so, best to treat ivy as a bonus for your bees.

Comments

  1. Richard Woodhouse says:

    Excellent summary of topical tasks – which makes me feel nostalgic for my beekeeping days! This must have been an exceptional year, with the enormous heat (and drought) we have all experienced. And I’m not surprised that many colonies are now “tetchy”.
    Good to hear that so many members have had big honey harvests, and that so many new ones have scored well with the Basics Exam.
    Well done all.
    Richard W

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