In most years, late July sees the end of routine swarm control checks, however, this is not the time to sit back and relax. What the beekeeper does now has a major bearing on the following year. The available forage starts to diminish in August but there are still large numbers of flying bees, as a result robbing can become a real problem. Reducing entrances, especially on any weaker colonies, will help guard bees to keep out unwanted intruders. Prevention is much better than cure, so make sure you are not inadvertently promoting robbing.
The surplus honey crop needs to be removed from the hives and extracted. Care should be exercised when using Porter Bee escapes (which are one-way valves) to remove bees from the supers. Ensure the “springs” are set to about 1mm (1/16″) gap and that all possible holes in the supers are sealed with wax or waterproof tape to stop access by robber bees. If bees do gain access a full super can very quickly be robbed out. Having successfully extracted the honey, ensuring windows and doors are kept closed at all times, return wet supers to the hives for cleaning out. This is always best left until late evening, removing them for winter storage a few days later. Honey is fit for extraction if the bees have capped it, if uncapped take a firm hold of the frame and shake over the top bars. If droplets come out the water content is still too high, this can be extracted last and used straight away. (This will not keep and should not be sold). If no droplets emerge it is fit for normal extraction.
If desired, colony numbers can be reduced by uniting. Remove the poorest queen, then place the de-queened stock on top of the selected neighbouring hive, placing a sheet of newspaper between the boxes. A few pin pricks in the sheet helps the bees to get started.
Bees need enough food to last them until the end of the next March. Feeding at least three gallons of sugar syrup should ensure this. It also helps to ‘dilute’ any late ivy honey being brought in, which can set hard. Always feed late in the day and take care not to spill any in the apiary.
Finally, treat the bees to reduce varroa numbers. There are a number of ways of doing this, Apiguard or MAQS are two of the commonly used products. It is important to reduce the mite load so that healthy winter bees are produced.