In our area beekeepers see August as the run up to the end of the season. Swarming has finished (well that’s what the books say) and the bees can pretty much be left to their own devices for a few weeks allowing the beekeeper to harvest surplus honey before returning the empty supers to the hives. The supers (boxes) containing extracted frames of honeycomb are placed above the crown board in the hive over an open feed hole. The bees will venture up into the supers and retrieve any residual scraps of honey that have been left, taking the honey down into the brood box below. This leaves the comb dry and in a suitable state to store away for the next year.
Some beekeepers will extract honey then choose to store “wet” supers (i.e. not give them back to the bees to dry out). They wrap the supers in plastic and store them over winter away from any marauding insects. Which only goes to prove that there is more than one way of doing things – well usually about 10 ways when it comes to beekeeping!
In areas where there is heather (bell and ling) the bees will continue to bring in nectar. For some beekeepers this is their main crop and the bees are managed accordingly so that there are plenty of young foraging bees available to make the most of the heather crop. In other areas of the country there is an invasive plant called Himalayan Balsam. It is illegal to propagate Himalayan Balsam and a large amount of time and effort is spent trying to eradicate it. However, in certain areas it is prolific. It provides a fabulous amount of nectar which extends the beekeeping season well into August and early September. Thereafter the only other significant crop for the bees is ivy. I think Ivy honey is an acquired taste. It has a very strong, almost medicinal tang. Personally, I think the bees are welcome to it.
Once the honey has been taken the true beginning of the beekeeping year starts. The bees are treated for varroa mites, they are checked to ensure that they are healthy and most importantly there are enough stores (at least 40lbs in weight) to see them through winter. Mouse guards and woodpecker protection will be added to the hives towards the end of October.
The beekeeper can then take a well-earned rest, reflect on everything they’ve got wrong this season and start planning for the following year.