August is the month when the fruits of our labour, or I should say the Colonies we manage, can be harvested and the summer honey crop extracted.
Be very aware the Bees will be acutely conscious the season is starting to change and they will understandably fight to defend their winter stores. It is therefore best to put your Clearer Boards on in the evening with an empty super below if possible, so the bees have somewhere to go when they hopefully ‘clear down’. Once the supers are clear of most of the bees, although there will always be one or two left, remove them from the hives and put in a ‘bee proof place’ ready for Extraction.
If you extract in the household kitchen, as most of us do, remember to cover the floor with newspaper as the sticky honey will, I assure you, get everywhere including door handles! Once extracted leave the honey to settle in the ripening tank for 24 hours so the bubbles can rise to the surface and any debris can be removed.
Then you have the fun of bottling your crop. Remember to put a couple to one side ready for the Honey show!
The wet supers I always number as I take them off the hive and in the evening after extraction has been completed, I will return them to the hive they came from, so the bees can clear them up ready for the winter. After a couple of days one evening when the temperatures drop you can then remove the supers, hopefully all the bees will have returned down to the warmth of the brood chamber, and get them put away into storage ready for use next spring.
It is important these now dry supers are stored properly so Bees, wasps, mice and other vermin are not attracted to or are able to gain access. I put mine on a solid floor in my Bee Shed with a metal Queen Excluder or sealed crown board on top which normally keeps all the pests away. If you don’t, you may find the mice make a horrible smelly mess of your lovely yellow comb and the smell is something you do not forget.
So honey extracted, supers stored, we need to get on to preparing the colonies for the winter –
First you have to decide which colonies you are going to manage through the winter and unite the weaker ones to make one decent colony. If you have kept accurate records you will know which are your younger 2017 Queens and if you can find her, kill the old Queen before you unite. If not, put a sheet of newspaper with a couple of small holes in it between the brood chambers and let nature take its course as the fittest Queen will survive. Then in the spring you can remove the lower brood chamber and get that ready for the inevitable swarms in 2018.
Well, after the difficult decision of how many colonies to feed into the Autumn you need to consider what Varroa treatment you intend to use whilst the weather is still warm enough to make the Thymol or other ingredients work on the damn parasite.
The Association this year purchased some Apiguard at a reasonable price and this is easy to use as you put the foil container on top of the Queen excluder so the fumes and the gel contained therein is taken down by the bees into the brood combs destroying the Varroa as it goes. After about ten days you put on the second foil container, as the first is now empty and can go in your recycling bin. This is necessary to kill the mites that are breeding in the brood, as is part of their destructive cycle.
Please ensure the Varroa slide is in place, if you have them, before treatment and you’ll be amazed how your strongest colonies have the most mites knocked down. I always delight in clearing the slides once a week onto sheets of newspapers which I then burn imagining the Varroa bursting into a thousand pieces as the heat reaches them! Sorry, I do hate these parasites who cause such damage to my hard working bees.
Next is feeding the bees for the winter months ahead –
They will still be busy ramming in as much Pollen as they can and fighting over the few flowers that are about, as they fill up the Brood chamber with stores ready for the dearth ahead. Plan ahead for the plants you intend to put in the garden for next year so they have plenty to work on at this time when little else is about.
We take (steal) a lot of the stores that would get them through the winter so we have to replace it with something – normally syrup or Fondant. If you are using syrup please do not spill ANY in the Apiary or you will start that feeding frenzy leading to Robbing which is difficult to control. When I make syrup at this time of year I make it as thick as I can so the bees don’t have to work too hard extracting the water ready for storing it in their Brood combs. Fondant is easy to use and you will find clear instructions on how to use this elsewhere on this Web site.
It is important to understand that the bees born in August and September are the ones that will survive the winter as the summer bees all die off due to old age and working themselves to death.
So to help out, get your entrances on the hives reduced down so they have less to defend and resist the urge to examine the brood chamber unless absolutely necessary for uniting or Queenless problems.
If you are lucky enough to have the hives close to home and have a moment to examine what is going on at their front door or on the carpet tile on the ground at the front you will see this month the spectacle of all the useless males (No! – not men I mean Drones!) being ejected from the hive as they have served their purpose and they are just unnecessary mouths to feed over the winter. Any males that forgot to put newspaper on the floor in the house when extracting the honey can expect similar treatment but that normally involves expensive lawyers!
Next month – Preparing for the Autumn and getting your Wasp and Hornet traps ready for use as the worker wasps and Hornets attempt to steal all the Bees’ sweet winter stores.
Be ready to plant spring bulbs – Crocus, Snowdrop etc for the spring Pollen the Bees will desperately be searching for once the winter is over.