September in the Northwest Apiary

The summer of 2015 has been a dry one.  With this lack of rain, there are fewer flowers for the bees to forage from.  In my travels, the hives right now seem to be full of bees and are well brooded.  I’ve noticed that some hives that haven’t been fed syrup are dipping into some of the capped honey that would have been saved for winter in most years.  Unless the beekeeper gets to feeding these hives, they will not make it through winter.  Many have been feeding syrup since mid to late July.  Check the weight of your hives and make sure they are heavy.  A hive in the Willamette Valley will need 50 to 60 pounds of honey to make it through the winter.

Recently, I had the pleasure of helping another beekeeper remove a hive from under a trailer.  The hive was of good size, however they had no nectar or stored honey.  The hive would have starved within a few days.  For the record, this is not the time of the year to remove a hive from a building, except in this instance a festival was on the schedule and the bees were in the way.

The fall of the year is upon us.  The bees of course are thinking about the arrival of winter.  For the best chance of colony survival, one needs to feed sugar syrup and protein patties.  Varroa and other pest and disease control should have already been performed. The bees are currently brooding the bees that will produce the fat winter bees.  This is the reason to feed syrup and protein patties now.  My hives are consuming a gallon of syrup in 3 to 5 days and a one pound protein patty in 5 to 7 days. Bees may continue to try to rob so be aware of the situation.

You may consider combining weak colonies. It is not cost effective to put resources into a weak colony. They generally don’t make it anyway. Two questions arise. One, what constitutes a weak hive? Two, what if the hive is diseased? If a beekeeper made nucs back in mid-July they could now have built up to a single deep. If they have been increasing in size they are not a weak colony. When a beekeeper has a double deep or a double deep with supers and now it has decreased to a single deep or less, it is a weak hive. The hive should be analyzed to figure out why it declined. It could be queenless or it could be a result of pests or disease. If you are a newer beekeeper, you may need to consult with your mentor or a member of your local bee association. A queenless colony would best be combined with another hive. It is now too late to introduce a queen to a weak hive and have it make it through the winter.  When a colony became weak as a result of pests or disease it is best not to combine it with another hive because it will infect that hive as well.  If you choose to combine hives, use the newspaper method. Combining them without newspaper between the hive bodies will result in bees going into combat.

For those that are done extracting honey, is is time to put your supers into storage. Wax moth can get into your stored supers and proceed to make their home, ruining the wax in your frames. The Greater and Lesser Wax Moth prefer frames that have had brood in them because there will be left over pollen present. They like it dark and still. The best method to avoid contamination with wax moth is to freeze the supers. After 24 hours in the deep freezer, all stages (egg, larva and adult) are killed. The problem is as soon as you take the supers out of the freezer and they thaw out they can easily be re-infected. Another method of storage is to store the frames in the light 24 hours a day. It also helps to run an oscillating fan across the stacks of supers. A third method is to place 6 tablespoons of para-dichlorobenzene crystals (sold as Para-Moth®) on a paper plate or piece of cardboard. Place the plate or cardboard on the top bars of the uppermost super of the stack. Cover the stack of supers. The vapors are heavier than air and will float to the bottom of the stack. Check each month for the presence of crystals. Replenish as necessary.

By the end of the month, a beekeeper may want to retest for Varroa mites. On occasion a hive can get re-infested with mites or the mite control that you used did not work.


Some plants that continue to be in bloom are: aster, false dandelion, pumpkin, squash, wild carrot (Queen Anne’s Lace), various herbs, peppermint, (If the field hasn’t been cut.) borage, single type dahlias, irrigated white clover, sunflowers and buckwheat. During the last week of August I moved bees in to buckwheat. Chicory may also still be in bloom. On a side note, the honey from chicory tastes like Luden’s® cough drops.

Copyright 2014-Richard Farrier-All rights reserved