Jeremy Quinlan

Did you treat for Varroa in the middle of last month? Does every colony have 20kg of stores? If the answer to either question is “No” then please do so before it is too late. In July BBKA News, there were three articles about not treating. I agree that will be the best thing to do eventually, but I do not think that many of us have yet reached that point. No one likes putting chemicals into bee colonies, but if that is the only way to ensure they will be alive next spring there is no other realistic choice. 

Did you check mite drop over four days before treating? How did the number of mites that fell compare with the control guide in the NBU booklet Managing Varroa, page 33 (redrawn below)? I found the number varied widely. Since every colony is unique, any other result would be surprising. Did you put check boards in again when you treated?

Most colonies will already have ejected all their drones. If there are still drones in a colony, suspect a failing queen and one that may be superseded. Proponents of dark bees claim they can make successful matings in the vicinity of the apiary late in the year.

Bees will now be processing whatever feed you gave them, reducing its water content and capping it against moulds and yeasts. They will also be bringing in ivy nectar; while this crystallises as quickly as oilseed rape, I do not believe they will have any great difficulty eating it.

September is a good month for honey shows. Unfortunately, in Suffolk, ours is a part of the Suffolk Show at the end of May. Showing is the best way to learn how to present hive products well. While shows have a wide variety of classes, the ability to produce good ‘clear’ and ‘crystallised or soft set’ honeys is a basic essential. The National Honey Show offers guides to the methods. Clear honeys need to be heated to stay clear but heating can damage them, so all the honey I produce is soft set and stable. Essentially, it is produced using a variation of the Dyce Process, discovered by a Canadian of that name. A small amount (10%) of an already set honey is stirred into a clear one; the whole bulk then sets to the crystalline structure of the original. Bottle it before it sets.

Things to Do:


Are all your colonies strong enough to survive the winter?  Unite those that are not.   Ideally first move them no more than three feet per day until they are alongside each other.

Two nuclei in a divided brood box, with their entrances at opposite ends, will keep each other warm over the winter.

When varroa treatment is complete, remove treatment residues.  Remove the check boards too.

Leaving treatments in place can allow mites to acquire resistance to them.  Check boards are just for monitoring.  If you used a thymol treatment plan to use an oxalic acid follow-up in December.

If supers have a little honey remaining put them under the brood chamber.

Bees do not like stores below them so they eat these first.  Plan to move such supers up, above a queen excluder, at your first inspection next spring.

Remove queen excluders.  Over winter clean and scrape them for the new year.  If you have the unframed zinc variety drop hints that Christmas is coming.

The winter cluster needs freedom to move to wherever their stores may be.

Measure entrance heights.  If not more than 7mm then mice cannot get in.

Mice like a dry, warm cavity provided with food.  At 7mm there is no need for mouse excluders.

Consider insulation under the roof; maybe a square of 50mm cavity wall insulation board.

Professor Tom Seeley recommends it – see The Lives of Bees.

When the ivy is over, ‘heft’.  That is, lift first one side of the hive, then the other and add the weights together.  Deduct the weight of the woodwork; this should leave approximately 20kg of stores for winter.

This is best done using a luggage scale.  Record the weight.


Empty supers are easily stored in a stack outside, tied down against gales.  Take the opportunity to carry out any repairs needed.

Unless they are immediately over a brood chamber, so have traces of pollen stores remaining, there is no need to worry about wax moth in supers.

Consider wrapping hives in small mesh chicken-wire or plastic sheet.  Plastic sheet is easy and cheap; chicken-wire needs to be close but not too close.

Green woodpeckers eat ants but if the ground is frozen they may learn that beehives contain bees and go for them.  Cedar hives offer minimal resistance.

Tie down hives against winter gales

I recommend using cord secured with a wagoner’s hitch; a brick will not do.


Photos:  Jeremy Quinlan

Banner image at top of page:  Chicken wire wrapped hives after attack