Your Bees in August

IMG_5433August is a busy month for beekeepers!  Honey supers are off, we are checking mite levels and treating our hives if necessary, and the bees are continuing to bring in nectar to store for winter.  Many beekeepers consider August 15th as the start of the beekeeping year.  By this day, many aspects of your colony’s upcoming year are already determined by the conditions inside your hive.

Ideally, you will have completed your varroa mite treatments before this day. If you haven’t, put it on your to do list with an ASAP flag! The timing is critical for several reasons:

– Your bee population is starting to decline in preparation for winter. However, varroa mite numbers are still on the rise! The ratio of mites to bees rises dramatically during fall, and this leads to a very sudden crash in colonies that were thriving only a month before.  Consider conducting a post-treatment mite sampling to verify that the treatment was successful.

– All throughout the summer, drones act as a virtual varroa trap. By now, most colonies will have stopped raising drones. All the mites that would normally have avoided worker brood now have nowhere else to go. This contributes to the early fall crash.

– The brood that is being raised in your colony now will become the nurse bees that raise your winter brood. If they are not well-nourished, relatively mite free, and otherwise healthy, they will be unable to rear the robust winter bees that are needed to help your colony survive in late winter/early spring.

Please watch those mite counts and treat as necessary!  Please call or visit the store if you have any questions.

Other things to think about in August: 

– By the time September is in full swing, you want your brood to be as near to the bottom of the colony as possible. What induces a colony to move the brood down? Incoming nectar! If your brood is still high, this is a good indication that your bees will need to be fed with syrup. The brood nest shouldn’t be moving up this time of year! If it is, your bees are eating through their winter stores. Begin feeding right away!

– Fall is the most important time of the year to feed protein. Your bees need to be fat and healthy going into winter, and they should have several frames of pollen in the bottom box of the colony. If they don’t, you will do them big favors when you feed supplemental protein patties.

– Water is very important for temperature regulation, brood rearing, and nectar processing. If your bees don’t have a water source nearby, be sure to provide one.

– Robbing season is here. Watch weak colonies and reduce their entrances, especially if you are feeding them. Use a robbing screen to stop attacks.

– Yellow jackets are always a nuisance for honey bees. Trap them with store-bought yellow jacket traps if you are concerned. Generally speaking, the yellow jackets cannot kill a colony that isn’t already weak for other reasons, but they can kill a fair number of foragers.  Next spring, set out traps in April and May to catch the queens! Every queen you catch is one less nest to contend with.