As always, All beekeeping is local. Here’s my offering for the beekeeping calendar for the South Carolina Midlands for the month of September: Plan on checks twice this month but do not work unless necessary to prevent triggering robbing.
September weather usually continues to be hot in the Midlands. Don’t expect extended cool weather until mid October. In the meantime, slightly reduced temperatures may open up some alternative Varroa treatment options.
The main management issue this month is a continuation of last month’s focus on pest management. Pests are growing in numbers while bee populations are typically falling in response to a reduction in available nectar. Varroa, Small Hive Beetles, Yellow Jackets, and other pests can overwhelm a hive leading to decline. A weakened hive then becomes vulnerable to robbing and wax moths. The beekeeper must get ahead of the pests as responding after a problem is observed may be too late.
1) Continue to monitor and control pests – Varroa, Small Hive Beetles, and Yellow Jackets. If you have not yet treated for Varroa now is the time to assess and act accordingly.
2) This year’s hive beetle population seems to be greater than last year’s. I suspect this is due to last year’s warm winter, increased rainfall this spring and summer, and overall supportive weather. Place traps or Swiffer pads in hives before you notice a problem. Check traps weekly and replenish or replace as needed.
3) Yellow Jacket traps with lure can be placed around the apiary. There are several low cost or no cost do-it-yourself trap plans online. If you see yellow jackets attempting to breach security at the hive entrance observe how your bees handle the situation. A strong hive will eject the intruder in short order. Keep hives strong by adjusting hive size to bee population. Poor Man’s Yellow Jacket trap.
4) Depending on your location some of these plants may have already bloomed. Rose of Sharon, Magnolia, Crepe myrtle, Sunflower, White Boneset, and Sweet Autumn Clematis. Cotton is blooming east of the Midlands. Goldenrod and Asters begin to make their appearance this month. We sometimes get a short fall nectar flow. If we get a fall flow you’ll notice a renewed vigor on the landing board and lots of pollen entering the hive. The smelly sock odor of goldenrod will be noted when you open the hive and sometimes when walking through the apiary.
5) Typically no local queens are available in September. If you need a queen you’ll probably have to order one from out of state or buy one from a vendor that has ordered from out of state.
6) It’s crunch time to combine weak hives with strong hives. There is a saying, “Take your losses in the Fall.” Experienced beekeepers combine their weak hives with stronger hives knowing they can split in the spring and nothing is lost. (Assess and make sure the weak hive is not weak due to disease before combining.) Better to strengthen a strong hive than allow the weak hive to perish. Use the newspaper method between boxes with slits to allow the bees to become accustomed to each other. Remove weaker queen prior to combining. Note: Assess and make sure the weak hive is not weak due to disease before combining.
7) Use entrance reducers as appropriate. Many colonies have been bringing their populations down over the course of dearth period. Adjust their entrances accordingly. Addition of an upper entrance such as a notched inner cover is advisable prior to entering colder weather to allow for ventilation (cover with screen if robbing pressure is a concern).
8) Increase feeding this month to stimulate the brood rearing of nurse bees which will raise your winter bees. You may use a 1:1 mix during this time but nothing thinner. Coupled with autumn pollen flow this can give a boost to improving the quality of your winter bees. Some beekeepers begin the use of 2:1 this month. The decision is yours based on your assessment of your hives, their stores, and whether you think we’ll get cooler weather sooner rather than later.
9) Begin to tip colonies forward from the rear to assess their weight. Notice the number of frames of honey stores inside so that you can compare what you are feeling with what is actually inside. You will need this assessment skill during winter when you shouldn’t open the hives.
10) If needed, make efforts to bring all hives with extra supers down to overwintering configuration. For ten frame hives that usually means one deep and one medium OR three mediums. If you have eight frame hives do the math to accomplish the same internal volume.
11) The occasional late swarm caught this time of year can be housed briefly in a box and fed. They will pull out some nice comb but anticipate combining them after a short while with an established colony.
12) Prepare your honey and wax entries for the South Carolina State Fair. Helpful hints can be found here.
13) Attend your local association’s monthly meeting. Volunteer to educate the public on the importance of honey bees by signing up to work a shift at the upcoming SC State Fair booth.
14) It’s September and time to start preparing for autumn! Enjoy the following resources as you prepare your colonies:
Fall Management by David MacFawn
Fall Management Review from MSBA Beekeeper Class