July 2021 Apiary Notes from Wally Thrale

The season in coming to its end soon. Before I took up beekeeping I was told that the end of July signalled the end of the season around here which surprised me. However, after becoming involved with bees there is so much more awareness of the natural environment and flowers in particular.

So before long we need to consider taking away supers for extraction when there is no more honey flow. This becomes quite obvious by looking at the entrance as there will be little flying activity. In fact we should always look at the hive entrance as it gives an indication of the state of a colony. A little reminder when taking off supers – place the roof on the ground upside down and stand supers on it. Supers should never come into contact with the ground for hygiene reasons.

My supers are always stored ‘dry’ and by that I mean I return them to colonies for the bees to clean out, placing them above the crown board. When the bees have finished their work I store them in a barn to over winter.

At the end of the season there are often super frames that are not capped over as the bees are waiting or hoping for another nectar flow. By having local knowledge of the local flora we will know if another flow is likely or not. It is best to leave supers on the hive for a few days when a flow has finished to allow time for the bees to ripen the latest batch.

Uncapped frames can be extracted but do the ‘shake’ test first. Hold the frame firmly with one side facing downwards and give a good shake. If no honey falls out it is safe to extract the frame. If honey does fall out put these frames back into a separate super and return to the bees for a few days, where they will finish ripening the honey.

To remind you, the Association has several extractors around the county which can be borrowed at no cost (see p53 of the Yearbook). Obviously they may be in demand around early August so be aware that you may have to wait a little while.

Many beekeepers treat for varroa in August which means no honey should be present. Some treatments, such as Apiguard, require warm daytime temperature to be effective. The efficacy is much reduced if treatment starts in September. More on varroa next month.

In a normal season wasps start to become a problem around now. Due to the very poor weather we have experienced this year I think wasps haven’t built up to significant numbers yet. The occasional one has appeared on spare kit in my garden so they seem to be behind the curve. However, if they start attempting to gain entrance to a hive it is important to reduce the hive entrance to around an inch to allows bees to defend themselves. Once wasps start attacking a colony it can soon be taken out as bees seem to lose the will to fight off the intruders.

Finally, it is not too late to make nucs to overwinter and is something all beekeepers should try to do in case of a bad winter. I have deliberately made a couple of colonies queenless by moving the queen and a couple of frames of brood with bees into a nuc. This nuc was then placed in another apiary in order to stop flying bees returning home. Two pieces of wood were placed on the top brood bars of the queenless colony in order to leave a gap of about 1.5 inches. A frame with eggs from this colony was placed flat on these pieces of wood, the wood allowing space for building queen cells. A shallow eke of around 3 inches deep is needed to accommodate the frame. Note that two of the sides of the eke need thin slats so that the frame can fit within it.

To date the bees have raised several queen cells pointing downwards and hopefully can be removed with a sharp DIY blade in the coming days. It will be a matter of cutting out the cell but well away from the base so as not to damage it. The removed queen cell is then placed between two frames in the nuc that was made up a couple of days earlier.

Just a note on why the frame was placed horizontally on the brood frames.  Bees build swarm and supersedure queen cells in a vertical fashion as it protects the developing queen’s abdomen which is delicate. The cells built as described above are obviously emergency ones but placing the frame flat over the top bars simulates the normal queen cell production process.

The Association website has an article on how to make up a nuc. Follow the link: