Amanda's Beekeeping Notes August 2019

Beekeeping notes from Amanda Millar

Honey Crop

As last year, I shall be taking my honey off just before the end of July this year as the nectar flow seems to have slowed considerably (there are already blackberry fruit on the bushes), and there seems to have been no progress in the supers for a week or so. The season has been early again. Any nectar still coming in the bees can have; not that mine have a huge amount anyway. Sadly, in spite of the bee-lovely weather many of my colonies are small or had extended brood breaks waiting for virgins to mate in the poor weather earlier in the year so have been slower to build up than normal. Make sure you leave space for the bees to cluster in, before removing all the supers. If some of the honey is not yet capped, before extracting high moisture honey, leave for a couple of days in the supers, on end so air can circulate, in a small room with a dehumidifier. It can reduce the moisture by at least 1%.

Winter Bees, feeding and mite control

There has been some research indicating that up to 40% of the brood in late August may be winter bees in colonies with their original queen, this proportion of the emerging bees increases until early October. These bees need to survive until late March next year, If the colony had had a new queen, (mated, virgin or emergency) the winter bee production was found to have shifted 12 days later, ie early September to late October. It means that if we wish for strong colonies with healthy winter bees to survive until the spring, it is essential we monitor and if necessary start treating against varroa at the beginning of August, as many treatments take one or two brood cycles to knock the mite numbers down. I find it easy to monitor in late July by putting the insert in for 5-7 days so that I know exactly which colonies require treatment as soon as I have removed the honey and had them lick the supers dry. I put the wet supers back on over an open crownboard for a couple of days, to get them to remove any residual honey down into the colony, then store them for winter. If you use a Porter escape in a crown board just leave it in place and remove the Porter escapes. However, before you remove the honey supers you need to decide how much honey you wish to leave them to winter on; I try for 50% honey and the rest topped up with sugar syrup. This also means they have enough for any mite treatment in August as I do not normally disturb them with that on and it is definitely not a good idea to feed them at the same time.

Last year several of my colonies were so low in mites, because I keep the mites low in spring and summer, that I was able to delay any treatment until November when I am regularly hit by a varroa bomb from neglected/untreated colonies collapsing near me and being robbed out by my bees. The Oxalic Acid Vapourisation I carried out last November seems to have been very effective and kept the mites low all year and going by the first 4 colonies I monitored last week before the heatwave, I shall be doing the same this year with most of them. Currently it is too hot to have any inserts in and I shall be shading the colonies in the sun; all have an empty super over the crownboard to isolate them from the boiling hot metal roofs. It can be quite hot in August which may also limit the treatments we can use, ie the thymol based ones, so read the instructions. If used when the temperature is too hot it can put the queen off lay which may have a serious effect on winter bee production. Some years I find I have to start the treatment using icing sugar until it is cool enough to use Apiguard, rather than delay treatment.

Bee on Catmint

Supersedure, and things to do

If you collected a swarm or your colony swarmed, queen replacement/supersedure is something to look out for. So if you only see a couple of queen cells sometimes in the middle of a frame, do not disturb them but let them get on with replacing the queen. It may be the queen being replaced is a young one but the swarming has triggered the replacement.

If you have time between honey extracting and varroa monitoring while we have this hot dry weather it is an opportune moment to paint hive stands. The weather can turn in September and then I wish I had done it earlier.


Utrecht in Holland has been covering their bus stop roofs with bee friendly sedum. My workshop roof had moss on when it was under a tree but when the tree died the debris was colonised naturally with sedum. This year I see it is white sedum, previously I have had yellow, it would be nice to get some yellow back; it would probably extend the season. See photo.

Sedum on my shed roof - Green roof

Other research: Virus spillover from commercial honeybees to bumblebees has been found in US; 19% of flowers had DWV or BQCVirus. No virus found on bumblebees collect more than 1km from apiaries. I wondered whether it was transferred by their feet, until I found some bee poo on one of my flowers. See photo of beepoo on Sweet Rocket. Careful monitoring and treatment or culling of diseased colonies could protect wild bees from viruses and other pathogens. There are implications for all the so-called ‘treatment-free’ Beekeepers, and behoves new (and experienced) beekeepers to monitor more carefully, recognise diseases and treat accordingly.
Bee poo on Sweet Rocket, a method of disease transmission

It comes as no great surprise that other research finds organic farming enhances honeybee colony performance with 37% more brood, 20% more adult bees and 53% more honey. They suggest the main reasons are a wider range of pollen resources especially in May and June, and reduced mortality from pesticides.

Following the reported decline in bees and other insects in Europe (and recently Russia too) a petition was started last month, which, if it reaches 1 million signatures from 7 EU member states they will consider legislating on conservation issues, pesticide and fertiliser restrictions. This can be found at website. The text in English can be seen at 

I hope you had a good crop.



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