End Of Summer Hive Inspection

photographs and text by Sharon Kitchens

My wonderful bee mentor Deborah, without whom I’d be lost as a new beekeeper, invited one of Maine’s own “Swarm Team” Keith Kettelhut over for the last inspection before tucking the hives in for winter. I’ll have him back in the spring** for another inspection when Deborah and I (all things willing) split my hives and I grow my two hives to three or four hives. (**Reference the beekeeper’s calendar I’ve included at the bottom of this post for a sort of seasonal “to do” list for backyard beekeepers.)

First thing first, Deborah and I took a  look at my hives a week before Keith came over and confirmed (a) I needed to treat for mites and (b) I had enough capped honey in each hive I’d likely not have to feed my bees heading into winter.

Capped Honey in both hives = beautiful!

Keith inspecting the hives

Honeybee larvae (checking for mites)

Marking the queen

Mixing Fumagillin into the (2:1) sugar water to prevent Nosema

Applying Terramycin for prevention of American Foulbrood and European Foulbrood (1 Tbsp on top of the bars on each side on top of the brood box, where have the ApiGuard tin for mite treatment). **The only reason I applied this is because, there was a chance my hives could have been contaminated with EFB by tools used in a bee yard where EFB was present.

Grass squeezed into an entrance to prevent robbing of honey (by bees from other hives).

**Fall and spring are the busiest times for beekeepers. Following is a basic outline of what backyard beekeepers (vs. professional pollinators) should be doing season to season…

September – November (now): Harvest fall honey crop, unite weak hives, remove supers/consolidate boxes, reduce entrances, monitor Varroa Mite populations, apply medications and mite treatments (I’m using ApiGuard), feed heavy (2:1 sugar/water) syrup if needed, attach/create mouse guards (by pounding in a small nail in the center of the smallest opening of your entrance reducer – this is the way “old timers do it and the way I am). Provide upper ventilation, remove mite treatments when wrap colonies with tar paper/add Homasote boards (they absorb moisture from the hive and keep the hive warm and dry). In Maine, where we get Nor’easters it’s a very good idea to also tie each of your hives down w/ nylon rope. *The Honey Exchange in Portland sells weather-resistant polypropylene straps w/ a dual-gear ratchet tie down (you can also find these at hardware stores – at least Lowe’s).

December – February: If you have it sell honey, read beekeeping texts (I’ll be reading some of Michael Bush’s work and spending an afternoon w/ Sam & Don @ Rabelais ensconced in a box of their bee books), and basically leave the bees alone.

March – May: Unwrap or take down winter protection, remove insulating materials, remove entrance reducers in strong colonies, check colony conditions (if honey reserves are short, feed candy or dry sugar), apply mite treatments, divide colonies at fruit bloom (when you split a hive in two), if you haven’t already order necessary woodenware (or in my case order/make as this will be my second year and Deborah & I will be trying some new things!!). Register hives with state agriculture department.

June – August: Check out my Birds and Bees posts (firstsecondthirdfourthfifth) for updates on inspections and nuc and package installation…

Editor’s note: Sharon is documenting her entire Birds & Bees experience on her blog Delicious Musings and The Maine is pleased to repost some of her adventures and mis-adventures in raising chickens and keeping bees for the first time. See the original post here and get Sharon’s report from the annual Maine State Beekeepers Association meeting here.