By Jim Orem and Ginger Davidson (www.GeezBeezHoney.com)
School is starting back up and summer is starting to come to a close. Yet, it can still be hot out and the last thing on our minds is a cold, snowy winter. However, now is the time to start thinking about getting your bees into shape for the upcoming winter months with adequate food sources as well as disease and pest monitoring.
August can also be a difficult time to work bees – not only is it hot for the beekeeper but nectar flows vary from slow to almost nonexistent which leads to robbing situations. Besides other honey bees, wasps and yellow jackets are a robbing hazard to weak hives and smaller nucs. Robbing is hard to stop once it begins. So, be proactive by making your hive inspections quick, considering the use of entrance reducers or robbing screens, and combining or boosting weak hives to make them stronger.
Boardman feeders (the type where the jar hangs off the front ledge of the entrance) are notorius for creating robbing situations. Use them carefully, and even better consider using a division board or hive top feeder instead. Some have taken their boardman jars and set up a board with holes cut in them to invert on top of the hive. Then, use a hive body to suround the jars before putting the top telescoping lid on.
If you haven’t already experienced ‘bearding’, the dog days of August will surely bring the bees to the outside of the hive. Just as humans sweat to cool themselves in the heat, bees use this as a cooling mechanism. Make sure they have enough room and proper ventilation. Then, don’t worry about it.
Requeening colonies in the Fall with a young, prolific egg layers ensures there will be more young bees at the critical time of the year and maximize the odds of winter survivability. A Fall queen will also build up faster in the Spring while at the same time being less likely to swarm.
Also, after you have harvested your spring honey crop, it is a good time to watch and count your mite levels. After all our efforts in preventing swarms and allowing the colony to build up in numbers, it's a prime time for mite levels to increase significantly. Remember, in general, more bees = more mites. If you have a hive that you were able to harvest honey from, chances are, you have high mite levels. Not always... but mostly. Use mite washes, sugar rolls, and sticky board counts to understand your threshhold. Come to meetings to talk more about mites and threshholds, as well as methods of dealing with them. Requeening is the last natural way to deal with mites. If you requeen, be sure to do it in time to allow the new queen to emerge, mate, and get back in to the hive to start laying before there are no more drones flying around to mate with.
A few other things to be aware of during the month of August:
- It is wax moth and small hive beetle season
- Provide a water source
- Know your mite counts and have a strategy to combat them
- If you are a feeder of sugar, watch for deals and buy sugar for winter boards, and feeding during the dearth.
- Bees can become crabby from robbing, heat, and increasing numbers of older guard bees
- Keep the keeper cool (this is a safety issue)
- Evaluate hives & combine for fall flow
- Drone populations are starting to dwindle