Beekeeping In August
Excerpted from: Bee Culture
August is a frantic crossroad month when summer management runs into the needs of
winter colony survival. If you are a new beekeeper, this is one of the essential times of the
colony management season that many beekeepers ignore for some unidentified reason.
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.
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.
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 that colonies that have higher mite levels
will benefit from the mite reduction.
Read More: Three Options for Fall Treatment of Varroa Mites
Read more: Using Oxalic Acid in Late Fall for Better Mite Control
Read More: When to treat for Varoa mites?
Fat Bees: 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.
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.
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
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.
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
Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about honey bee anatomy. Honey Bees play an
important role in pollination. Give the quiz a try!
Ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Take a look at the winter survival strategies
of native bumblebees, and native solitary bees.
This guide features regional native plants for the Great Lakes that are highly
attractive to native bees and honey bees.