August In the Apiary

It’s been hot. But at least we have not had last year’s smoke and onslaught of yellow Jackets (YET, anyway!). August is when our colonies are making the specialized winter bees needed to endure the long grueling winter. These special bees need to be strong, uncompromised and healthy! Therefore, we want to keep our mite counts down to less than 3%, preferably 0-1 percent. Best to choose varroa treatments that do the least amount of disturbance as possible. (O.A. Sublimation (12 days apart 2 or 3 treatments) or O.A. drip or Apivar (if supers are off) are some options. For low mite counts Hopguard is a good choice. There are many other options (see the honey bee health coalition varroa treatment document for details). However you treat or manage mites, now is the time to have it addressed, not too late in the month either. I try to have all colonies assessed and treated if needed by the start of August. Especially for the bigger, productive hives. Varroa become concentrated on the waning bee population as mite populations are reaching their zenith. This can be devastating for a populous hive. You may also observe drones being escorted to the door and kept corralled outside the hive. This is a predictable, normal development as winter preparation is already underway.

Quick word on hive population: now is not the time to split populous hives. If there are no swarm cells, then allow the bees their numbers or equalize with weaker hives. Combine weak (healthy) colonies if needed. There is not enough dependable time in the year to create numbers and food stores for another well established colony. Success may be ‘possible’ but not probable.

Okay, that said, lets talk honey!

We may remove honey frames when capped. Too much uncapped honey may ferment and can get really messy. Take only excess honey, leaving about 80 pounds for the bees. Give your hive time to be feed after (if) you pull the honey super. ( I give them a month if possible). This allows time for colonies to adjust to the new configuration and adjust their honey stores as needed. It also provides enough warm weather for any supplemental syrup to ‘ripen’ for capping. Another advantage to not pulling the super too late is that varroa treating is easier. Many treatments require the super be off. However you work your hive, think: ‘winter preparation’ in all your actions from here on out in the bee year.

Your bees may become a little (or a lot) more aggressive (protective) now that they have their goods stored up and food availability is slowing down. Smaller hives may need a reduced entrance to avert robbing. You might see guards on overtime, or frequent skirmishes at the door indicating uninvited guests are scouting out weakly guarded honey. This may (not often) precede a robbing attempt on smaller colonies. So keep an eye out that everyone is behaving nicely.

Okay, enough said! Enjoy the warm scent of your healthy colony, of the warm wax, honey and goodness that wafts over the air that you get to experience for being a lover of the bees, a beekeeper. Good health to all! -Kim Rivera

Big thanks to Kim Rivera for writing this month's notes!

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