Here is what to expect in and around the hive in August.
In the hive
There is a second, smaller swarm season in August and September. The bee population begins to diminish faster than it is growing; the brood area may contract. Many of the bees born from the end of August onward are called “winter bees” and live longer
than their summer sisters. Left untreated, the Varroa mite population usually peaks in August or September. Remember that Varroa is tough to manage because the mites thrive in healthy, populous colonies, unlike many of the other maladies that affect honey bees.The summer heat requires the bees to ventilate and perhaps beard outside the hive on the hottest evenings.
- Inspections should be especially thorough, particularly for pests and diseases. Your colonies should be able to take on the fall honey flow and then overwinter successfully.
- Check that the hive is not honey bound. Move the honey combs out of the brood nest and into a super if needed. The queen should have all the room she needs to lay, to have a strong young cohort of winter bees.
- August is the month when colonies begin preparation for winter. A full-sized colony should have at least 70-90 pounds of honey to eat by the beginning of October, or more than one full super (the hive would weigh about 135 pounds total). Nucs of course need less. Estimate the weight by slightly tipping and hefting the hive. If you extract honey, leave enough for the bees or feed them sugar syrup to make up for the difference.
- If you feed the bees sugar syrup, it should be a 2:1 ratio, thicker than the spring feed; the bees can evaporate the excess moisture from the hive faster from this thicker syrup.
- The bees will need at least two double-sided frames of pollen/bee bread by late winter/early spring. Supply bees with pollen or pollen substitute if they are short on protein. In autumn, bees use the decrease in pollen flow as a cue to begin rearing winter bees.
- If the weather is dry and there is no water source near the hive, consider providing one.
Pests, parasites, and diseases
- Monitor for Varroa mites and treat if necessary. The threshold for treatment changes at this time of year to 3 mites per 100 bees, as the number of mites rises.
- Note that a fall population spike may be due to mites coming in from bees from other colonies, in addition to natural population growth within the colony of interest. Therefore, even if you have diligently managed mites through the summer, continue to monitor consistently.
- Carefully check every brood frame in each colony for an American foulbrood infection.
- Swarm control: see the guidelines for May. It is probably too late to split colonies to ensure they are strong enough to overwinter.
- Combine weak and strong colonies or equalize them if you want to ensure strong populations going into winter, but only after you have checked for diseases in the weak colony.
- If you are considering re-queening, this is a good month to do it. An overwintered young queen should start laying in earnest in the spring.
- Prepare for the fall flow with at least one super and be prepared to add more if necessary.
- Upper entrances will help the bees ventilate the hot hives and evaporate the excess moisture from their honey.
- Removing bees from honey supers may require a fume board, bee brush, bee escape, or other tools; they each have advantages and disadvantages for different beekeepers and in different environmental conditions.
Hive products and services
- You may be able to trap pollen.
- Mow the yard as necessary.