Updated: Sep 1
The Long hot days of August are upon us. The nectar flow has slowed down considerably. The bees are curing the honey they have stored. They should have the honey supers full and the second brood box half to 3/4 full of honey, plus honey in the outside 2 frames of the bottom box by the time you harvest your honey. Putting on additional honey supers here in Utah during August is usually not going to get you any more honey where you want it. I have some pretty full hives this time of year and I want them to be storing it in the 2 bottom brood boxes for winter first, as well as in the honey supers you put on in June and early July. August supers usually will take honey that should be in those lower boxes and not adequate amounts to harvest.
When you pull your honey to harvest, make sure the frames you take are 75% capped. The bees dry out the honey to below 17% water content before capping it. If you pull to much uncapped honey it will have too much water in it and it can ferment and ruin your crop of honey. If you're concerned about water content, you can borrow or buy a refractometer which will tell you what the water content is. But a good rule of thumb is if 75% is capped.
Now is the time to test your hive for mites using the powder sugar or alcohol method. For new beekeepers the powder sugar mite test seems to be the favorite because it doesn't kill the bee sample from brood frames (1/2 cup - about 300 bees), but results can be inaccurate due to not shaking the bees hard enough to dislodge the mites from the bees. If you don't get the feeling "I am doing this so hard it might be injuring bees," you're probably not shaking them hard enough. The alcohol wash does kill the bees but it also kills the mites, which are then easier to separate from the bee and therefore, easier/more accurate is the result. Understand that a 1,000-1,500 bees die every day in the summer and fall, 300 doesn't affect the hive population that much. Of course you don't want to be doing it every day; once a month is usually adequate. You need to decide on what mite treatment you intend to use this fall and order any supplies you you'll need to properly apply them and research the application procedure so you apply it properly. Read and Follow the Instructions!!!!!! Poor or disastrous results usually occur because of operator error. Always test afterwards to make sure you were effective.
August is Harvest time. I usually wait till the last couple of weeks in August to pull honey. I want them to have enough time to cure and cap the nectar they have stored. There isn't a lot of nectar flow in August typically because of the lack of rain and hotter temperatures here in the high desert of Utah. If I have a hive that doesn't have a honey super on, because of being a late split, or because it had disease or queen issues that set them back, I will continue feeding those hives to help them put away winter stores. This assumes they are on the mend and growing and have overcome the issue that held them back. I want the bottom 2 deep hive bodies to weigh 100 lbs. The top of the 2 boxes should be about 75 %-100 % full of honey. That will be about 80 lbs of honey stores, plus the 20 lbs of boxes, wax, pollen and bees equaling the 100 lbs. This bottom store is what they will need to survive the winter. You can move honey down from your honey super or from a stronger hive to a weaker hive, to replace empty frames in the second box or outside edges of the bottom box. This is a topic we cover extensively in our advanced beekeeping classes regarding hive management.
Do your mite treatments as soon after you pull your honey; this will allow the bees raised during September and early October to be Winter Fat bees that will survive the winter. The winter fat bees fed on by the mites will not last the 180 days for the hive to survive. This is the number one reason hives don't make it through the winter. Treating as early as you can to protect these important bees in the winter survival of your hive.
Action Items for August-
1. Do mite tests to determine mite-load in your hive and develop a plan of action.
2. Determine what mite treatment you intend to use and acquire supplies to do it.
3. Arrange extraction equipment (rental, or purchase of equipment). Harvest frames of honey as soon as possible after removal from the hive so honey is warm and will come out of the frames easily.
4. Put wet frames back on hive for ONLY 24 hours for the bees to clean up residual honey. (It isn't recommended to put frames outside for bees to clean up. (which they will do) You will be creating a vector point for other bees in the neighborhood to help clean your frames but also pass mites and disease to your bees. it is better to put them back on the hive for only 24 hours then remove and store for winter before they start putting any nectar back in any cells.
5. Do mite treatments as soon after harvesting your honey as you can following directions (i.e. temperature limitations if any, and any others noted by the manufacture.
6. Remove honey supers and bring the hive down to the equivalent of 2 deep boxes in preparation for winter.