Charlie's monthly beekeeping calendar

Your monthly guide of beekeeping tips for you and your hives

September 8, 2023

To all SBA members,

The honey season is over for this year! After cleaning out the uncapping tank, I ended up with a total of 975 pounds of honey. I have cleaned and put away my honey extraction equipment and rendered all my wax cappings through my solar wax melter. This year I used my wax melter to clean all my queen excluders, leaving them free of wax and propolis. This labor saving idea was given to me by my friend Nancy in northeastern Pennsylvania who frequents my Friday night bee chats. Here's the link to my YouTube video on how to do this:

Treating for Varroa Mites

On July 23, I applied Apivar strips to all of my hives. This treatment has been in my hives for six weeks and will be finished on September 3. I wanted to use Apiguard this year but the high temperatures and humidity had me concerned about possibly putting my queens at risk.

My next mite treatment will be Formic Pro, using two strips (full dose) on my ten frame honey production hives and one strip (1/2 dose) on my nucs for a fourteen day treatment period. The timing of this application is important. The temperature should be 80 degrees or lower with low humidity for the first four consecutive days after application.

Also, through the winter months I will apply oxalic acid vapor twice a month, October through February, if we get days around 48 degrees.

-Read the directions for your varroa mite treatment of choice very carefully and/or watch a YouTube video on how to apply the treatment.
-Be sure you treat in the correct temperature range for your varroa mite treatment.

-Remember, treat your bees for varroa -- your bees are counting on you!
What are you going to do in September?
1. Make sure that you remove your honey supers before you treat for varroa mites.
2. Do a varroa mite load pre-check before you apply your varroa mite treatment.
3. Start your second treatment program for varroa mites early in September using your treatment of choice.
4. Read the directions for your varroa mite treatment very carefully.
5. Be sure you treat in the correct temperature range for the varroa mite treatment that you are using.
6. Confirm you have a laying queen.
7. Make sure the queen has plenty of frames to lay eggs in the brood nest.
8. Go through your hives and reverse the brood boxes if needed. 9. Start feeding 2-to-1 sugar water around the 15th of September.
Preparing Colonies for the Winter

I prepare my hives for winter by first going through the colony and finding the location of the brood nest. If it is in the top box, I reverse the brood boxes: put the top box with the queen and brood on the bottom board and the brood box with all the empty frames on top. Then I put on a top hive feeder and begin feeding the week after Labor Day with 2-to-1 sugar water until the bees slow or stop taking it. I have found that by feeding the bees this way, I usually do not have the problem of my hives running out of food in the early spring.

My formula for mixing 2 to 1 sugar water:
I heat the water on the stove when I mix in the sugar.
-2-to-1 sugar water = 3 qt of water and 10 lbs of sugar = about 2 gal. Feeding Your Bees
The Top Hive Feeder

You should understand the principle of the top hive feeder in relationship to the bees. If you feed with a quart jar with holes in the lid, the bees will get a restricted amount of sugar water. The sugar water comes into the hive at such a slow rate that the bees utilize all of it in raising brood and feeding the colony. Little to none will be stored for the winter. When you use a top hive feeder, there is a deluge of sugar water coming into the hive. A thousand bees are bringing it in so fast that the only option is to store it for future use as honey.

A lot of beekeepers feed fondant instead of sugar water. They put fondant on top of the frames in the hive so the bees can eat it throughout the winter. Some beekeepers replace the inner cover with a candy board. This is a shim filled with a hard compacted piece of sugar mixed with vinegar and water. The late Billy Davis, EAS Master Beekeeper and friend, will show you how to make candy for a candy board at

Some Common Mistakes

I have found that most new beekeepers who feed sugar water start too late in the year because they do not understand the honey bees' timeline. The colony has to prepare months in advance for the winter.

The most important fact that you must understand is the bees have to have warm weather and enough time to dry down the sugar water into honey before they cap it for the winter. If you begin feeding sugar water in October and the day time weather turns colder (fifty degrees or less), the bees won't be able to process it into honey and the hive will run out of food before spring. If this happens, then the only thing that you can do is to feed your bees fondant or sugar bricks.

Hive Ventilation

After you have finished feeding your hive for the winter, take off the top hive feeder and put the inner cover back on. I put two wooden blocks (about 5/8" thick, 1 1/4" wide and 2 inches long) at the two front corners of the inner cover to raise the telescoping cover up to let the heat and humidity out of the hive through the winter. When the weather turns cold (40 degrees or less), I close up my screen bottom boards with corrugated sign board material.

I hope this information helps you prepare your bee colonies for the coming winter.
Happy Beekeeping!

Charlie Thomas
SBA President
My YouTube channel is Sawmill Charlie's Bee Farm