Graphic of bees flying over a meadow in summer

Beekeeping In August

Excerpted from: Bee Culture

If you are a new beekeeper, this is one of the essential times of the colony management season.

August is a frantic crossroad month when summer management runs into the needs of winter colony survival.

  In August bees and beekeepers are busy!

Harvesting Honey

Honey bee brood frame

This often is when beekeepers remove the summer honey crop from plants like the clovers, spotted knapweed, and even the honey produced during the spring from fruit bloom, tulip poplar, black locust, basswood and sumac. It is important that they let the bees ‘ripen’ the honey adequately and the moisture is low enough to prevent fermentation in the container.

Producing Honey

Some beekeepers have apiary locations where their bees have access to those ‘horrible and invasive’ nectar sources like purple loosestrife and Japanese knotweed. These two species bloom in August and into September and, in some areas, produce a major nectar flow.

Varroa Mite Treatments

After the flow is over and the spring and summer honey crop is removed from the hive, many beekeepers try to squeeze in a Varroa mite treatment before the nectar flow from the goldenrod and asters start. This can be a tight fit to comply with the miticides label for some compounds, but it will provide a treatment at a time those colonies that have higher mite levels will benefit from the mite reduction.

  August Is The Start of the Beekeeper's New Year

Garphic of a fat bee
Fat bees are well-
fed winter bees

This is the time of the season when colonies start the cycle for next year’s season by producing healthy and vigorous worker bees that will raise the final cycle of bees before winter. It is essential that the beekeeper make sure the colonies have adequate pollen and honey nutrition entering the hive during the mid-August to mid-September period.

Colonies that do not produce a healthy, well-fed brood cycle of late summer bees will not have the nurse bees needed to produce the winter bees (Fat Bees). These are the bees that must live 5 to 7 months and raise the first cycles of brood in the colonies during the winter when flight is not possible in Wisconsin.

Fat Bees are different from summer bees because they carry nutrients in their cells that help raise the winter brood.

  Help Bees Re-arrange Brood and Honey

In nature, such as a colony in a bee tree, bees will fill the upper combs with honey during the summer and shift the brood rearing to the lower part of the nest. Managed bee colonies should attempt to duplicate this instinct.

If the bees have moved up to the top of the brood chamber, beekeepers are advised to move the brood nest to the lower hive body, and place brood frames filled with honey above the brood area. This will allow the bees to move upwards in the winter. Heat rises and the bees will follow the heat as they winter and eventually start to rear brood in the Winter.

Once the bees are in cluster, they cannot move from the top box and crawl down to the stored honey and move it up unless there is a warm spell. That can be very dangerous for the bees if the weather turns cold quickly and the bees are left stranded on the honey comb some distance from the brood cluster.

  Reposition Exposed Hives

Honey Bee Hives have been protected by bales of hay for winter

Winter wind exposure is hard on the bee colony. Many of the colonies that survive are the ones that have good sun exposure and protection from the strong winter winds. Colonies located in open fields and ridge tops are better off moved to thickets of brush, behind buildings and other protected areas.

It is probably too early to move most colonies in August, but the beekeeper should develop a plan for this, lining up help and reducing the size of the colony so it will be easier to move. Most beekeepers wait until late November or early December to make the last visit and prepare the bees with insulation and ventilation.

When it is not possible to move colonies, make a windbreak from fencing material, bails of straw, wood pallets and other scrap materials. I like to have a one-inch insulation board between the inner cover of the hive and the top cover. This reduces heat loss and spreads the heat over the top of the hive, allowing the bees to spread their winter cluster to reach more stored food. Provide an upper entrance in the top box, either as part of the inner cover or in a shim under the inner cover or an auger hole in the hive body.

Some beekeepers wrap their hives with insulation board or roofing paper. This is helpful when the bees are exposed to strong winds.

Here are a few books that provide interesting summer reads!

  Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
  Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
  Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard
  Our Native Bees by Paige Embry

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