There are lots of things to look forward to in August — late-summer vacations, ripe peaches, hive robbing like in the video above… wait, maybe not that last one.
By August, the summer nectar flow has definitely tapered off for most of us. If you haven’t already harvested honey, it’s time to remove the surplus, leaving some space for any late summer or fall flow as the goldenrod and asters bloom.
The hive population will continue to decline from its peak in the high summer and the bees’ attention will turn to the winter ahead. So should yours. That means ensuring you have a strong colony with ample honey stores.
Requeening, feeding, and preventing robberies
When you inspect, make sure you’re seeing good laying activity from the queen. If you can’t locate the queen or there appear to be problems in the broodnest, now is the time to start thinking about fall requeening. Don’t wait till it’s too late! We’ll talk more about requeening next month.
If you got a late start or just haven’t built up as much as you would have liked, you might also think about feeding during the dearth to help build up winter stores.
But be careful not to start a feeding frenzy on your bottom board, caused by a strong hive raiding a weaker one. The smell of honey, from opening the hive or putting the feeder on, can trigger robbing that may be difficult to contain. You’ll see aggressive fighting between bees at the entrance and on the ground in front of the hive.
The best way to deal with robbing is to prevent it. Use your entrance reducer to help the bees defend their colony. Cover up the supers when you’re harvesting and be careful not to spill any syrup while filling the feeder.
Checking for varroa mites
The other big August task is checking your varroa levels, especially if you did only cursory checks during the summer flow. Take varroa counts using your preferred method whether it be a sticky board drop count, drone brood checks or the sugar roll. I like the sticky board approach because it gives you a cross-section of the whole colony and doesn’t kill any bees.
So how many mites is too many mites? That’s a good question. You definitely want low mite levels to ensure healthy winter bees, though. The threshold for treating ranges by location, by time of testing and by your general sensibility, but I would think about treating if your mite drop count hits double digits per day on average, over a 3-day count period. If you do decide to treat, make sure all supers are off the hive before using any chemicals.
In bloom this month:
Not much. You may get buckwheat, smartweed and some early aster and goldenrod.