Ian Campbell, Newcastle & District BKA and BBKA Social Media Manager

The tide begins to turn on the beekeeping season and it is already time to start thinking about preparing for the late season and beyond.

Inspections

Continue weekly inspections. Swarming is mainly over, but an unexpected late round of swarms in some seasons can catch you out. This tends to happen if colonies build up strongly again after early splits.
 
Sometimes and selectively, you can reduce the frequency of checks on some colonies.

Honey

This can be a good month to remove honey.
Super frames for extraction are ready when ~75% of a frame is capped.
A refractometer is valuable to measure the moisture content of honey (see opposite, along with a typical measurement scale viewed through the eyepiece) .
Remember, a colony needs about 20kg of stores for the winter, so avoid taking off too much honey.
Extractors are costly – does your association have one you can borrow?
Jars have increased significantly in price; shop around or maybe look at collective procurement to get bulk discounts and save on P&P.

                   

 

Space

Brood area growth is likely to start to slow down.
A strong flow can lead to colonies becoming honey- or pollen-bound.
A strong flow may need additional supers.

New queens

New queens from splits or queen rearing will, hopefully, be coming into lay now. This is an opportunity to start assessing these queens. Some will not mate well or might vanish altogether. Watch out for signs of drone-laying queens or drone-laying workers, such as multiple eggs or larvae in cells (below).

Unite

Start thinking about which colonies may need uniting to improve chances of overwintering. Your records should help you to decide which colonies may struggle through winter.
The newspaper method of uniting works well. A sheet of newspaper is held down by a queen excluder between the brood boxes. One colony has normally been dequeened first. Weak but healthy colonies or ones with a dubious temper may well be candidates for uniting with stronger, ‘friendlier’ colonies.

Shake out

Drone-laying workers (DLW) are often best dealt with via a shake out. This process assumes there are additional hives in the apiary. Take the whole hive a distance from its original position – ideally 50–100m. Shake every bee off the frames/boxes. The theory is that laying workers will have never left the colony so they may well not navigate back to the hives. If they do, guards in other colonies may reject these pseudo queens.
Attempts to salvage a DLW colony may be more trouble than it is worth as it is likely to kill any new introduced queen. Meanwhile, the colony may be full of older bees and may be weakening.

Forage

Can include blackberry, white clover, sweet chestnut and rosebay willow herb.

Disease

A full disease inspection is often useful this month. Shake all bees off frames containing brood and carefully check the sealed and unsealed cells. The pocket-sized BBKA Healthy Hive Guide has plenty of helpful photos to show how to recognise common diseases.
Hold the frames at 45 degrees to angle the light into the cells. This can help you to spot signs of scales common with AFB. Healthy larvae should be pearly white, well segmented and ‘C’-shaped. Healthy pupae should be under unperforated cappings. If foulbrood is suspected, you must contact your local NBU bee inspector. It is sensible to self-impose a standstill of bees, equipment and honey until given the all-clear.

Wasps

Keep an eye out for social wasps becoming a threat. Defences can include:
Narrowing entrances.
Commercial entrance tunnels.
Ensuring equipment is wasp-proof.
Watching out for vulnerable weaker colonies/nucs.
Avoid spilling any syrup feed.
Feeding early or late in the day.
Moving colonies under attack to a different apiary.
Wasp traps are often considered to be ineffective and may can cause excessive bycatch. Some of these precautions can help avoid robbing by honey bees as well.

 

Yellow-legged Asian hornets

Vigilance, reporting sightings and National Bee Unit (NBU) nest destruction are vital. Asian hornet nest populations may be increasing. Predation may be increasing. Apiary defences may need to be deployed where predation is occurring and colonies becoming stressed. Manage for colony strength. Monitored bait stations and wick traps may be appropriate elsewhere.

Photo:  Claude Alleva/Pixabay

Varroa

This is a good time to monitor Varroa drop and plan if an autumn treatment is required, and when you might start treating.
Current NBU advice suggests a threshold for treatment of a daily mite count of 10 per day or above

All photos:  Ian Campbell unless stated otherwise