September notes from the Abbey Beekeeper

On the 7th August I was in Galway and returned that evening. It was sunny, so I went to check my hives to see if the bees were out and about enjoying the rare summer sunshine. As I approached, I noticed a lot of activity on a laurel bush. Looking closer I saw a prime swarm. The old saying that a swarm of bees in May is worth a load of hay, a swarm of bees in June is worth a silver spoon, a swarm of bees in July isn’t worth a fly doesn’t even extend into August! Is this the result of our changing climate etc? A swarm this late in the season has little chance of establishing itself before the barren winter months set in.

I have given it a frame of honey and will add some brood from a stronger hive and may even chance taking it to the heather! If I do that I will add some further frames of brood and food before setting out for the bog.

In fact I did not get round to moving them to the heather and so will unite them with a queenless colony. This should make for a good strong colony next year.

I have taken off the little honey the bees managed to collect between the showers this summer and have left them enough to survive the winter. I am hopeful that we get a good autumn and that the bees will get a chance to add to their stores from the late flowers, especially the ivy. The bees will continue to store honey from late sources. If they are still a bit light at the end of this, I will feed them with good thick syrup.

Miller feeders are useful for autumn feeding as they allow colonies to be fed quickly. When you put on feeders, it is important to prime them, by running some syrup down through the feed hole to let the bees know the feeder is full.

I like to have all my colonies fed by mid September. There is a possibility that if bees are fed too early they use the food for breeding and will need more food later. This is not a bad thing as it provides young bees for the winter. You may have to top up their food stocks during the last week of September.

Around the middle of the month, colonies moved to the heather, should be brought home -their honey supers removed and the colonies treated for varroa and fed.

To prevent robbing, all colonies needing food in an apiary should be fed at the same time. Feeding should be done in the evening and care must be taken to avoid spilling syrup in the vicinity of the hives and entrances should be reduced to 25mm to deter robbers and wasps.

There may not be time to feed colonies brought back from the heather with liquid syrup. You can winter these bees on fondant or dampened sugar bags, neither of which encourage robbing.


Honey Rosemary – good for the liver and stomach.

1 cup fresh rosemary flowers

2lb 4 oz honey

Combine ingredients in a covered jar and place in the sun or in a hot place for a month. Then add a little water to cover the ingredients place over heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a container. The syrup retains its potency for approximately 2 weeks.