County Wexford Beekeepers' Association
What to do in September
By Ambrose Murphy and James Peare
How to feed them
I use a big plastic biscuit tin to feed my bees, a three and a half pound biscuit tin, and I’ve fed them no other way. It’s a plastic one and it’ll hold a gallon of syrup. I put the feeder on top of the frames inside a super. I take the lid off the biscuit tin and fill it up with syrup and I put grass in it.
I get a wad of grass and cut it into about five or six inch lengths and put that into the biscuit tin. Then I pour the syrup into it and the grass will all rise to the top and when the bees walk in for the syrup they can walk across the grass. You wouldn’t lose two bees to drowning that way. And as they drink the syrup and the syrup goes down, the grass goes down too.
Other people use plastic feeders made specially for feeding bees. They come in three sizes. I knew a man who used a big sweet can with a bit of a sceach or a branch with a few leaves on it stuck down into the can. The bees come up for the syrup and they can use the branch to climb in and out for the syrup.
Treating for Varroa
You put in your strips or whatever you’re using for the varroa mite. You do this after you’ve taken off all your honey. You have to do the treatment in September, because if it gets too cold the treatments won’t work the way they should.
We use the strips. You hook the strips at the top and they hang down between the frames, four strips spread across a frame. I think that the strips are the best system because the heat of the bees evaporates the treatment, rises it, and the bees have to constantly cross the strips.
You can put a sheet of white paper the width of the floor below the brood chamber and above the floor and then you’ll be able to see how many dead mites you have on that, if you want to check how the treatment is working.
Feeding the bees
In September, when you’re finished with the honey, the next job then is feeding. If you have a year that’s not great for honey and you take off the honey, the bees in the hive will have very little honey left. So you’d have to come back within a day or two and give them a gallon of syrup. If you don’t feed them quickly they might be dead by the time you go there again.
Now this might be in August if that’s when you take off the honey, but you have to feed them straight after taking off the honey.
With experience over the years, you can just give the hive a lift and that’ll give you a good idea of how much honey the bees have left in the brood chamber. It’s a 1:1 sugar to water syrup that I give them at that time of year.
How much to feed them
They can get through syrup quicker than you might think. I’d probably give 4.5 to 5 gallons of syrup for each hive. There’s no point in half feeding them. We’ve been lucky the last couple of years with the ivy honey, but there’s years when you might get none and people might be depending on it. If the bees don’t get ivy honey and you only give them one or two gallons, then that wouldn’t be enough for them.
Every year is not the same. Some years the brood chamber might have a lot of honey and the bees mightn’t want much, but then there’s more years when they need more. If they want the syrup they’ll take it, if not they’ll leave some.