Beekeeping in September marks a very busy period of the beekeeping year. Typically this is one of the months when we treat the hives for the varroa mite. Varroa destructor (Acari: Varroidae) is a species of mite – an animal group more closely related to spiders and ticks than to insects. Varroa lives as an external parasite of honey bees. Originally confined to the Asian honey bee, Apis cerana, it has spread in recent decades to the Western honey bee, Apis mellifera. Unlike Apis cerana, our honey bee has few natural defences against Varroa. The mites feed on both adult bees and brood, weakening them and spreading harmful pathogens such as bee viruses.
Infested colonies eventually die out unless control measures are regularly applied. By using an integrated pest management system, varying the ways in which the mites are controlled, the beekeeper can keep on top of the problem ensuring healthy and thriving colonies, so it’s not all doom and gloom.
This is also the time of year to make sure that the colonies will go into winter with enough food. Having taken off the honey it is important to make sure the bees don’t starve to death over winter. They need to have at least 40lbs of stores to see them through the winter. We feed the bees with either a solution of 2:1 sugar syrup or ambrosia syrup which is purchased from the bee suppliers. There is still a flow of Ivy nectar coming in during the Autumn. This honey tends to granulate very quickly in the comb though and the bees need water to break the honey down so that they can consume it. If the weather is bad and the bees can’t get out to collect water this can be a problem. If you see a bee at this time of year with orangy/yellow pollen in her pollen baskets you know she has been working the ivy.
If you are at the Newbury Show this weekend why not visit the Newbury and District Beekeepers Association stand in the countryside area of the showground. We love talking about our bees and will have our observation hive on display. Come and see if you can find the Queen!