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This month in the apiary


Well where did the summer go – here we are in September and the preparations for winter are beginning.

I would be interested to hear how others’ honey yields have been this year.  Mine were disappointing – probably around half of the normal yield, which I put down to the extreme temperatures, meaning little or no nectar in many flowers.  The heather near me has been disappointing to the extent that much of it is brown and crispy!

I find it is always a balancing act this time of year – waiting to see if there might be a late flow of honey from Himalayan Balsam and heather, but being mindful that you don’t want to leave it too late to start treating the hives with Apiguard.

I extracted last week and have put the empty supers back on the hives for a clean up.  My job early next week is to take these off to store, and try to get each colony down to 1 or two supers, which I will leave for them for the winter.

I have a couple of smaller colonies which I intend to unite, using the newspaper method – better one larger colony that stands a chance of surviving than two small ones that may not.

Then for their annual treatment of Apiguard for 4 weeks.   After that I will close the colonies up for the winter:

  • Remove queen excluders so that as the colony moves around the hive, the queen does not get isolated.
  • Place a super of honey underneath the brood box.
  • Protect from local threats – woodpeckers (apply chicken wire around the hive), mice (make sure the door is sufficiently small to prevent mice from entering), and wind (strap the hive together).
  • Check that there is sufficient stores – each colony needs around 20kg of honey to take them through the winter.

Then I will start the cleaning up of the old kit – not a pleasant job in my view but it has to be done.  This also includes rendering of wax, a sticky business but there is something pleasing about reaching the end result and making something beautiful from the beeswax.  With the price of energy, a few beeswax candles might be just the thing!!

What is going on in the hive?

The queen will be laying still but these bees will take the colony through the winter.  They will be working hard building stores to see them through, as well as guarding against wasps and hornets trying to get in.

Check the larder

My garden has recovered somewhat since we have had some rain, but forage is not plentiful.  The most colourful things in my garden are my runner beans – they have had a terrible year but now that the weather is cooler, they are taking off!  The ivy is looking promising though and in the meantime, I am still seeing ghost bees coming back from the Himalayan Balsam.

Enjoy your beekeeping!

(c) Elizabeth Knight
Runner beans