The Village Beekeepers’ Blog

The aim of the “Beekeeping Blog” is to give tips about what we should be doing at different times during the year in East Lancashire.


The Local Village Beekeepers’ September Blog

The beginning of the beekeepers year!!  At least for those who have extracted honey, but what about those of us who are waiting for the end of the heather and balsam nectar flow. My bees are stilling foraging on Balsam, the heather I’m not sure about, but if they are I’ll know as soon as I lift the crownboard and the smell that reminds me of silage lifts out of the box.

Balsam Bee

My girls are piling in nectar and pollen now and I’m hoping for enough honey to at least stock my cupboards, but what promised to be a fantastic honey year has dwindled into ‘ we’ll be lucky if we get any!’

We don’t extract here until the middle of September so there’s a couple of weeks yet, but what do we do about preparing the colonies for winter. We can’t feed honey producing colonies, unless we want sugar syrup on our toast, and we can’t treat the same colonies for varroa, unless we use something that won’t taint the honey.

But the colonies that I know aren’t going to produce honey can be prepared for the winter. This is the time to make the colonies as strong and healthy as possible.

I’ve already united several colonies.  I’ve got two that have decided to supercede the queen, so I’m keeping a close eye to make sure there is a queen in there to go into winter.  If not I’ll unite them with a queenright colony and bring the number of colonies in the apiary down even further.  It makes it easier to monitor in the winter months.

Others I’m monitoring for stores, and feeding with a 2:1 sugar syrup.

Varroa checks were done early and showed a very low mite count.  It’s an unreliable way of testing for varroa, but combined with other in observations in the hive I’m confident that in most of my colonies varroa is at a manageable level.

What do I mean by other observations?

Apilife Var

Well the obvious one is mites on bees.  Unfortunately, this is an indication of a large infestation.  Deformed Wing Virus is another way of checking – bees whose wings haven’t developed properly can be seen running around on the frames.  Another way is checking the brood pattern.  Most of my queens are this years’ and should be laying a good brood pattern, with few or no empty or nibbled cells, where the larvae have been damaged or died and been removed by the bees.  Empty cells in sealed brood can be an indication of varroa damage.

Poor brood signs can also be an indication of something more serious such as Foul Brood so, if any doubt, call in the Bee Inspector.

At the moment I’m treating one colony in a different apiary with Api Life VAR, a good autumn treatment.  Apistan or Bayvarol could be used.  These are pyrethroid treatments so watch out for resistant mites as this would seriously reduce the effectiveness of the treatment.

Any syrup feeding should be finished by the end of September which gives the bees’ time to process and seal the stores, but the last forage will be the flowering ivy, which here, flowers well into October.  The bees will be seen bringing in yellow pollen in large quantities, but if you get this in your honey it sets like concrete.  Some say it is an unpleasant honey, but I quite like it.

Simple wasp trap

All this feeding can cause another problem….. robbing!!  Both by wasps and bees.  Another reason for making colonies as strong as possible and able to defend themselves.  Any weak colonies are bound to be a prime target.  My apiary has been surrounded by wasp traps for the last few weeks I think I’ve caught every wasp in a three mile radius, but for the last few years there have been wasps flying even in December

Just one more little pest I’ll be watching out for will be mice and at the end of the month I’ll be putting on mouse guards.  We don’t have a problem here with green woodpecker, at least they haven’t found me yet

The rest of the month will be spend hopefully extracting honey,  definitely extracting beeswax  and hoping to have something to show in our Honey Show.

Our club programme for 2017 is on the website.