Its now mid-September. It’s easy to see the days are getting shorter and nights are cooling down. The amount of forage, both nectar and pollen, is rapidly declining. The bees will soon be living on their stored honey. The hive has also greatly cut back on brood rearing.
In the last week of August, I removed most of the honey from my hives. I did leave a few supers in place if they had full, but uncapped, cells in the hopes the bees will complete their work and dry and cap the honey cells. These remaining honey supers will be removed the 3rd week of September.
During the first week of September a number of local beekeepers banded together for an extraction party. In total we extracted honey to fill 34 5 gallon buckets. We compared notes and a number of us reported that this year was our best ever as far as the honey harvest, while several others said it was their worst. Go figure. We are all located within 5 miles of each other. Also, a few reported that many packages did not build properly and store a surplus. Overwintered hives had a definite advantage.
This past week I did my second fall mite treatment. The first, using formic acid pads, was done in late July. This past week I did a one-time oxalic acid vapor treatment. The oxalic acid treatment will be repeated in mid-October and early November. By early October I am hoping even the Italian queens will have stopped brood rearing. Thus making the final oxalic acid vapor treatment 100% effective and putting the hives in excellent shape for surviving winter.
As part of my goal to be a sustainable beekeeper (ie not having to buy package bees every spring) I made up a large number of 5 over 5 double winter nucs. Last year I had excellent (greater than 90%) survival of winter nucs. If the same occurs this winter I will have strong spring nucs to replace any hive losses. In late August and September, I have been feeding these winter nucs in order that the upper box will have at least 25 pounds of honey/sugar syrup. NOTE: I will be writing another article about winter nucs later this winter.
My observation from this past summer was that hives, begun with winter nucs, outperformed both overwintered hives and new packages. There could be several reasons for this outcome. During the late winter population build-up, the winter nucs have less cold air volume which could help with brood rearing. The winter nucs all had young queens, while the overwintered hive queens were in their 2nd or 3rd winter. The vigor of a 1st year queen cannot be ignored. Finally, the hives started with winter nucs seemed to not swarm while many overwintered hives swarmed. Hives that swarmed usually had 0 or 1 super of honey. Overwintered hives yielded 2 to 3 supers of honey. Hives started from winter nucs yielded 2 to 4 supers. This last observation may be a fluke. I will continue to track the performance of winter nucs hives in the future.
My queen rearing and mating efforts ended in late August. I am in the process of combining the mating nucs with other hives or winter nucs.
Several non-performing (ie no honey for the summer) hives had their queens replaced.
What’s ahead for the remainder of September and October?
-If not done already I will be downsizing the entrance reducer to the 4 inch opening.
-Next week I will be removing the remaining honey supers.
-Next I will evaluate each hive. Does it need feeding? Is it queenright? Hives with little honey stores will be fed. Hives not queen right will be combined with other stronger hives.
-The wax and propolis buildup on queen excluders will be removed prior to storage. Do NOT leave a queen excluder in the hive. It may trap the queen below the excluder when the cluster has moved above it.
-Any unused equipment will be inspected, repaired and painted prior to storage so that it will be ready for use next spring.
-Mouse guards and hive wrap will not be installed until early November.