By now, most beekeepers will have finished the harvesting of the honey, unless they get a second honey flow from plants such as balsam and heather. The Ivy will start to flower soon, and provide more nectar, but it is a very bitter honey and many don’t take it but instead leave it for the bees.
Once the supers have been removed for extracting, it is time to carry out the autumn varroa treatment. I recommend oxalic acid vaporisation using Api Bioxal. This is the only oxalic acid treatment approved for use in the UK. I also carry out another treatment around about Christmas time, when there should there should be little or no brood.
It’s too early to be feeding your bees yet – if you feed too early you run the risk of the bees filling brood comb with stores, which reduces egg laying space for the queen to lay in to produce the winter bees. This then creates a lack of space and stimulates a desire to swarm (fatal because beyond the end of September it is unlikely that a queen will be able to mate, so you will go into winter with a queenless colony that is doomed to die!
I always leave at least one super of stores on the hive, and in the first two weeks of September I will move the super under the brood box (Nadir). This will make the bees move the stores up into the brood box, where they will need it over the winter. I can either then remove that super, or leave it on over the winter. The risk of doing so is that the queen may start laying in the super come Spring, so you need to remove the super before that happens – unless you intend to run brood-and-a-half, that is.
If I find that a hive looks low on stores around end of September, I will feed 2:1 syrup, which they will store for winter. Each hive will need around 8 full frames of stores in the brood chamber to get them through the winter.
I make my syrup in 5 litre buckets using 4.45kg of sugar mixed with 2.2 litres of water. I also add a few drops of lemongrass oil and 3g of Ascorbic acid per litre of syrup, The Ascorbic acid helps bring the ph of the syrup near to that of honey, which the bees would normally feed on.
I use the large English feeders because I need to reduce trips to my apiaries, so can feed in larger quantity. The smaller rapid feeder will be fine for my back garden hives, as I can check them more often.
I stop feeding syrup once the daytime temperatures start to hold constantly at below 12 degrees. At that point they should have enough stores, but if not I will place a block of fondant either on the top of the frames or above the crown board.
Don’t be afraid to merge small and struggling colonies going into the winter, and the sooner, the better. It is far better to merge two under strength colonies and come out of winter with one strong hive than to risk loosing two colonies. I do this with the mating nucs from my queen rearing programme. This means that the many small colonies can become several large, strong colonies to over-winter. It also means that I can use these colonies to replace any winter losses.