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Beekeeping In September

This is one of our favorite parts of the beekeeper’s calendar — it’s time to harvest that sparkling liquid honey! Deciding how much honey to remove from a hive is one of the most important decisions in beekeeping. Depending on the colony size, you may need to leave anywhere from 60 to 90 pounds of honey in a hive for your bees to survive through the spring.

September is an odd month because the weather is so unpredictable. It can be in the upper 90’s and humid or it can be 40°F and dry. As a beekeeper, it’s important to prepare for all of these scenarios.

Understand that as the weather changes dramatically, your bees become frustrated because, like you, they are trying to adapt their plans for the coming weeks. Be patient with your bees, and they will respect you during your interactions.

Remember, When it’s hot, the bees can be a little more ornery than usual. Plan inspections during cooler weather rather than super hot days.

September Checklist

Extracting honey from comb

  As usual, Monitor colony health. A colony that is not performing like others should be inspected to be sure its's queenright and not diseased or mite-laden. Remember, every time you crack the hive open and pull frames apart, you may be releasing Small Hive Beetles from their propolis jails that the bees worked so hard to contain them. Small Hive Beetles appear to be more of a problem for hives that are in the shade but you do see them in the full-sun hives too.

  Monitor extraneous space in supers. Supers on hives that are light with nectar and not likely to be filled, should be removed. They are more of a liability now. Remove them not only because you want the bees to put the honey in the deeps for winter stores, but also to avoid extra space for wax moth and hive beetle to invade.

  Check hive weight. Check for adequate food stores. They should not be too light. If light, those who feed should feed for weight. Others may consider a plan to combine or collapse that colony.

  Monitor for laying workers! Laying worker hives at this time will not make it through the winter if not corrected. If you do not have access to a mated queen to introduce, combine or collapse the colony. There are many options to do either.

  If you are harvesting honey, extract your supers as soon as possible to avoid wax moth and Small Hive Beetles larva. Getting them extracted also lets you set them up back outside as a community feeder to both let bees build their stores, and get your combs cleaned out for winter storage.

  Work to position your hives into their winter configuration.

  Get your mouse guards ready. The cooler weather is a signal for mice to find a warmer winter den and a beehive is perfect. A 3/8-inch hardware mesh works well as a mouse guard and putting it on will not reduce any productivity by the bees, but you can rest assured that you will keep the mice out.

  Now is a good time to swap out equipment for repair. As you consolidate and combine, you can rotate out hive bodies that need repair and bring in shabby equipment that needs paint or repair over the winter.

  It is recommended to put an entrance reducer on each hive before winter starts. The population of a hive naturally ebbs and flows throughout the year, creating an ever-changing work force of bees responsible for guarding the hive. This population decreases as winter looms or the colony is being weakened. The entrance reducer can help them get through these periods of low populations.

What Are Small Hive Beetles?

Small Hive Beetle,  Aethina tumida

The Small Hive Beetle, Aethina tumida, is an invasive pest of bee hives, originally from sub-Saharan Africa. These beetles inhabit almost all honey bee colonies in their native range, but they do little damage there and are rarely considered a serious hive pest.

In the Wisconsin, these beetles are usually considered to be a secondary or opportunistic pest, only causing excessive damage after bee colonies have already become stressed or weakened by other factors. Infestations of beetles can put significant stress on bee colonies, which can be compounded by the stress of varroa mites and other conditions. If large populations of beetles are allowed to build up, even strong colonies can be overwhelmed in a short time.

Small Hive Beetle,  Aethina tumida, in honey bee hive

Adult Small Hive Beetles are ¼-inch in length, oblong or oval in shape, tan to reddish brown, dark brown or black in color, and covered in fine hairs, but their size and appearance can be highly variable within a population. The adults are usually observed in the hive with their heads tucked down beneath the thorax, so that antennae and legs are often not apparent

Beetles are easily detected by visual inspection of colonies. When a hive is opened, adult beetles may be observed running across the underside of the outer cover, on either side of the inner cover, and on the top bars of frames. Also, beetles may be seen running across the surfaces of combs

Prevention is the most effective tactic of Small Hive Beetle control. Chemical controls are available, but are of limited use. Good beekeeping management practices in the bee yard and in the honey house are sufficient to contain hive beetle problems in most cases.

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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