September 2019 Beekeeper’s Corner

By Jerry Przybylski, local bees preferred

The dearth we’re in should continue for another month or two, depending on whether fall rains are early or late, light or heavy.
Consult notes from last fall. How do the hives this year compare?
Is the plan that was cooked up last September working this summer?
Make more notes. Cook up a better plan. What steps need to be taken now to get there?
Challenges:
Yellowjacket colonies are still building.  If they’re harassing hives, maybe it’s time for some well-placed YJ traps. Several Do-It-Yourself designs exist on the internet, and in YouTube videos.  The County Vector Control district we pay our taxes can be called in to deal with YJs in ground nests.
Where YJ populations are low, and they’re not bothering hives, they do a service for the environment by carrying away dead bees and crawlers in the yard, and by foraging insect pests on our vegetables.
Bait with a few drops of fipronil is the nuclear option since it’s a persistent chemical and adversely affects amphibians and beneficial wildlife. So, avoid it if at all possible.
How many hives do we want next spring? With winter losses of… say 30%…  how many colonies should be taken into the winter?
Splitting:
By the end of September, getting new queens well-mated may be a challenge.  We’re running out of time to make splits or mating nucs.  Hive populations are being wound down too. So, getting enough resources into a split may be a challenge.  Splits may be vulnerable to being robbed too.  Bring your best game, and check up on new splits often.
Maintenance:
Continue to provide water.  Our bees need plenty of it to control the heat.
Lift up on the back of hives. If they’re too light, check their food supply and population.  Some hives are starving now in our county due to lack of forage or too much competition from neighbors. Share a frame of honey with them from another hive.  Uncapped honey is best for a colony that has no honey at all.  If the bees are super lethargic, dissolve half a cup of sugar in a cup of warm water and wet the bees with it to give them a boost.  Be careful with honey spills or sugar water splashes since they might induce robbing.
Now is a good time to harvest excess honey. Place supers of wet frames ABOVE the inner cover to induce the bees to clean them out. Again… exercise caution: Strong uncapped honey smells billowing out of a hive can induce robbing.  A small colony may not be able to defend wet supers.
Of course,… harvest capped honey. Leave the uncapped honey for the bees. They’ll use it or cap it when they get around to it.
Get all the granulated honey out of the hive before November. The bees won’t be able to use it during winter.
Spin out honey within a day or two of harvesting, or put it into the freezer to protect it from wax moth and small hive beetle.
One pollen frame per brood box should be sufficient. Freeze extra pollen frames for use in splits next spring.
Plan ahead:
Assess old equipment. Does any of it need to be replaced or repainted or repaired… Maybe it’s time to cycle out some old, black, smelly frames.  We still have enough sun to render the wax in a solar melter.  It may be time to start the bee-supply-store wish list to send to Santa.
Our guest speaker this month generously offered to inspect brood frames for American Foul Brood.
If you think you may have a contaminated frame, bring it in a plastic bag to prevent shedding of sports onto fellow beekeepers. Jennifer will give them a look before the meeting. Have a disposal plan in mind in case the answer is “Yes.”