As always, All beekeeping is local. Here’s my offering for the beekeeping calendar for the South Carolina Midlands for the month of August:
Plan on checks twice this month but be brief when opening hive to prevent triggering robbing.
Monitor and control pests – Varroa, Small Hive Beetles, Yellow Jackets.
It is now critical that the beekeeper assess Varroa levels and treat this month as needed. (If you have not treated yet you, most likely, will need to treat.) Varroa mites are now out-breeding your bees. Fewer drone cells means they will start entering more worker cells. It is equally as critical that you determine the effectiveness of your treatments by measuring Varroa levels post treatment. Do not assume that a treatment was effective. Establishing a healthy population of bees now will be reflected in your fall bees and ultimately in your winter bees. Allowing your bees to maintain a high mite load now will result in poor preparation of fall bees and sickly winter bees later. Of course, depending on your current mite level your bees may not get to winter if this is left unaddressed. If you are seeing deformed wing virus you most likely have a serious case of mites and a high virus load and need to take action now.
Dearth continues this month. Even if you left the bees plenty of honey consider feeding a thin syrup to provide hydration. Syrup is quick and ready for the bees to utilize as needed helping them keep the brood fed, cool the hive, and keeping the hive at 50% – 60% humidity. Monitor stores, remembering they are not bringing much in and will consume what is currently stored as we continue through dearth.
August will be your last opportunity to obtain local Midlands queens. Early contact with your local supplier is suggested.
1) Treatment options for Varroa control are now limited due to the extreme Midlands heat in August. Options include oxalic acid vaporization, Hopguard II, or ApiVar and other hard chemicals. If using oxalic acid, a series is suggested.
2) Implement pest control measures to contain Small Hive Beetles and Yellow Jackets.
3) Monitor and reduce entrances to assist the bees with guarding. Be exceptionally careful to not spill syrup or drip honey when working colonies.
4) Re-queen as necessary.
5) Unite weak colonies with stronger colonies if no disease is present.
6) A small upper entrance may be beneficial with venting excess heat – depending on your colony strength staple a screen to prevent unwanted visitors yet allow ventilation. Or use popsicle sticks between the inner and telescoping covers to allow heat to escape.
7) Remove colonies from mountains and extract Sourwood honey.
8) Cotton bloom has already started but you still have time to place colonies on upcoming soybeans.
9) If you have not been feeding, harvest summer honey on any remaining colonies. As it is getting late in the season, leave at least one super of honey for bees.
10) Monitor pollen supply coming in to hive. We occasionally see a late summer pollen dearth that lasts a couple weeks depending on weather. Some locations produce more pollen than others. Bees must have pollen just as they must have nectar or syrup in order to create brood food and to maintain a healthy immune system. Monitor pollen stores by observing the presence of pollen on brood frames and the frames on the edges of the brood nest. If your colony needs supplemental pollen consider feeding dry pollen or substitute in open pollen feeders. Do not use pollen patties as they create SHB problems here in the Midlands. More here: Pros and Cons of Feeding Dry Pollen Substitute.
11) Starting the last week of August begin to increase your syrup feeding using a 1:1 mix and provide enough to stimulate brood production. Monitor stores as well. The goal is to start raising the nurses that will raise the nurses that will ultimately raise your winter bees. It is important that you begin to raise well fed and healthy bees free of mite loads, and viri now. Do not let sick or compromised bees do the job of raising your winter bees.
12) It’s also time to start monitoring stores to ensure you will reach the goal of one full super for winter.
13) Register your entries at the South Carolina State Fair (free until September 1st).
14) Start preparing your State Fair entries – wax and honey.
15) Attend your local 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.
The above are general guidelines for the average bee colony in the Midlands of South Carolina. We all have hives that may be outperforming the average. We also have colonies that underperform the average. Use your judgement in making changes suggested here. Beekeeping is an art as well as a science. Only you know the many, many particulars associated with your physical hives as well as the general health and population of your colonies.