A Year in the Apiary - September
This month has been all about mite control. The Varroa mite made its way to Europe from Asia very recently and honeybees don't have a natural defence against it. Beekeepers need to keep it in check using a variety of methods, mainly chemical. The mite itself doesn't create as much damage as the viruses it carries, and these can be catastrophic to a colony.
Photo showing 2 Varroa mites on the thorax. source: beeculture.com.
A recent spate of warm weather got the bees out and about again. The only nectar available to them now largely comes from Himalayan Balsam and Ivy. They will continue to collect pollen and nectar until the air temperature drops to around 10 deg C on average. After that, they will cluster in the hive.
As I look towards October, I will monitor the colonies stores levels. I need to ensure that each colony has at least 20Kg of honey to get through the Winter. If it looks like dropping below that, I will need to feed them with sugar syrup. The Queen will already be starting to lay less and less and the colony will drop from around 50,ooo bees to maybe 10,000. All the drones will be ejected and the young bees that are emerging now will be the bees that overwinter with the Queen.
Weaker colonies will need to be united together to gain the strength in numbers needed to overwinter successfully. This is the time when all extra equipment is sterilised and stored for next year. I also have an abundance of beeswax that has been melted down from the unused frames.