August 2021 Apiary Notes from Wally Thrale

Apologies for the lateness of these notes.  Last month I mentioned that varroa treatment should be carried out in August, especially if temperature sensitive. The link below shows an overview of several varroa treatments I have used with some pros and  cons for each one. Rather than reproduce it here you can view the notes from last year by following the link:

The beekeeping season has finished now and the weather has been the poorest one I can remember in over 30 years that I have kept bees. The best description for the season perhaps is ‘challenging’ with poor honey yield, problems with queen mating and generally difficult conditions for beekeeping. Yesterday I wanted to remove honey but it was too windy and cold to do so – and this is the middle of August!

Enough of grumbling and onto to what needs doing. As already mentioned I am trying to remove any honey that is available in supers for me to extract but only if the bees have enough stores in their brood frames. If not I will remove the honey just before commencing feeding otherwise bees will starve.

Wasps area problem in some parts of the county so entrances should be reduced to a small gap so bees can defend themselves easier. Putting out wasp traps helps to reduce the wasp population although removing dead wasps daily can become tedious.

Once honey is extracted I return the supers over the crown boards of a few colonies for the bees to clean out. Supers shouldn’t be stored ‘wet’ as they will go mouldy over winter. If stored wet they are an attraction for local bees and wasps which results in a lot of dead insects, especially if left open in the apiary. Super comb is a valuable commodity and should be looked after. There is an article in the Good Practice section of the website explaining how to store supers. Follow the link below:

Before winter feeding I carry out a quick inspection of each colony to see if it looks viable. If there are several frames of brood, some of them containing slabs of sealed brood, I consider the colony in good shape. If it looks dubious the best thing to do is unite it elsewhere. If there are a couple of colonies that are like this I unite them leaving the queens in each box. Let the bees decide which queen they prefer. This only applies to colonies where there are no obvious signs of disease.

In a couple of weeks I shall start feeding and my preference these days is to use Ambrosia. Mixing sugar syrup for many colonies has little appeal for me.  Ambrosia is an inverted syrup whereas sugar syrup the bees need to invert it which is more work for them. Ambrosia also keeps for at least a year so can be used in the spring if colonies require a top up before nectar is available. The Association stocks Ambrosia so see the latest price list for location of stockists. For autumn feeding I always use syrup not fondant. Fondant is used when the weather is cold, mainly late winter or early spring, as bees won’t process syrup at this time but are happy to tuck into a block of fondant.

My aim is to finish feeding around the end of September as the ivy starts flowering later in the month. Bees don’t seem to overwinter too well if they have a lot of ivy honey in the brood frames. So feeding syrup before the ivy flowers prevents bees storing this honey in the brood box.  After feeding I leave one super on the hive for bees to store any ivy they manage to locate. This can be removed when it has finished flowering and some people find it a tasty honey. It’s a little like Marmite – people love it or hate it.