The Apiary Year September

The nights are drawing in .We have noticed this and so have the bees. The queen will probably have ceased laying. If she is laying there will not be a lot of laying going on. The colony will will be getting the hive ready for the winter and it is our job to give the bees as much help as possible.

The first requirement is that the bees have enough food for the winter. Each hive requires something of the order of 20kg of stores. If you have left them with 20kg of honey that is not a problem. In most cases that will not be the case and you have to make up the difference. At this time of year there is not much in the way of pollen and nectar. The only suitable flowers are probably Himalayan Balsam and Ivy and it may be that near your apiary there is not much of either. In that case we have to feed our bees.

There are two ways to feed the bees at this time of year. They can either be fed with syrup or they can be fed with blocks of fondant. Recipes for both can be found here.

In previous years I have fed them syrup which they have taken down large quantities. However feeding syrup requires considerable organisation on my part and uses a lot of bee energy. For me I have to first make the syrup and then I have to transport the syrup to apiary without it spilling in the back of the car. I normally have a large water bottle which I use for the purpose. Once at the apiary I have to decant the syrup into the feeders and then place them in an eke on the hive so that the bees can get to it. For the short period during which I feed the bees syrup I have had to store ekes and feeders. It is not as if I did not have enough stuff to store in my bee equipment store.

Once the bees realise there are stores present in the form of syrup they have to collect it and take it down to the cells where they will store it. They then have to expend considerable amounts of energy evaporating off the excess water before they cap it. This is particularly difficult at this time of the year when there is less heat in the sun to help them drive off the excess water.

This year I am going to move across to feeding them fondant. That has the advantage that it is easier to transport, I can put it on the hive more easily, there is no risk of mould growing in the container since the sugar content is so high and I will replace each block as the bees consume it. also I will be putting the fondant blocks in the same location all winter so the bees will get to know where the food is. I wonder if they use the waggle dance to say the food is upstairs!

Many Varroa treatments require a sufficiently high temperature for them to work and by September many of these treatments will be less effective and can be stopped. It has also been suggested that in hives where the Varroa treatment is still present the bees are less inclined to take down syrup for stores.

As food is now in short supply your hive is seen as a target for wasps. A weak hive could be totally overwhelmed by a wasp invasion. You can help by installing wasp traps near the hive entrance. There are various fancy traps available but the old fashioned jar with a hole in the lid is as good as any. For bait you can use beer though I personally do not recommend it. Not that it does not work it is just not what beer is for! This year I am using the stones and other stuff left over from making Damson jam and that seems to be very popular. Windfall apples are also very attractive.

Keep an eye on the wasp traps. This year there has been one possible sighting of an Asian Hornet in the UK in a wasp trap. That has yet to be confirmed but it is certainly worth checking the contents of your traps.

In addition to wasp traps it is the right time to put in entrance blocks to restrict the size of the opening to the hive. This makes it easier for the guard bees to defend their home. However I would not put the mouse guards on yet as they tend to remove the pollen the bees are carrying and there is little enough about at this time of the year.

One other task for September is to store the supers which you are not going to use again until next year. The biggest risk to stored supers is Wax Moth. One way to prevent that being a problem is to store the super, or at least the frames, in the freezer for 24 hours.

Once the supers are ready to be put away for winterthey need to be made as insect and vermin proof as possible. I put my supers into large plastic bags which I then seal wth tape. That way I can leave them in the back of the garage out of harms way. However I do check them every so often as mice can eat their way into the toughest of bags.

Well that is enough for this month. Plenty there to do as well as read the latest issue of the BBKA magazine.