The bees will still be working fall flowers, but in most states, the amount of honey produced in September will be minimal. The days are still warm enough to allow the honey bees enough time to gather more last-minute nectar, up to the first major hard freeze or frost, which will kill the flowers.
This is the start of the beekeeper’s year! What beekeepers do now in September will determine how well their honey bees do next year, and how well they overwinter (i.e., whether they will even make it through the winter). Here’s your work list for September:
1) Consider requeening. This is not mandatory, especially if your queen has done well. However, if you are going to, it is advisable to requeen in September. If you can afford to requeen your hive each year, it is best to do so at this time. A new queen means a much younger bee who has stronger pheremones, and has increased likelihood of laying eggs more efficiently in the spring.
2) Take off the last of your honey supers. If honey supers remain, there is no need for them now, and you will want to tighten up the hive by removing excess supers. Store them properly, and remember to use “Paramoth” or a similar product (DO NOT use moth crystals, which can cause colony deaths) to prevent wax moths from attacking and destroying your drawn comb in the supers.
3) Weigh your hives. This is guesswork unless you invest in a hive scale. Find something around your house that weighs around 70-80 lbs. Lift it up slightly with one hand. This will give you an idea what 70-90 lbs. should feel like. Now, go to your hives, and with one hand slightly lift the back. Only lift it an inch or two, so that you can sense hwo heavy it feels. If it feels like less than the 70-80 lbs. estimate, you will want to start feeding the hive 2:1 thick sugar water.
4) Feed your colonies! In all likelihood, beekeepers will need to feed their colonies heavily to help them store an appropriate amount of honey or heavy sugar-syrup to get them through the winter. Even 100 lbs. is not too much in each colony.
5) Consider treatment for Nosema. This is usually a “Fumagillin” treatment. Normal treatment recommends 2 gallons of treated heavy syrup in the fall, before honey bees quit taking syrup, usually around the last of October.
Because robbing is usually a problem at this time of year, here are some suggestions: First, we will address feeders. New beekeepers tend to favor front feeders (also called boardman feeders); these slip into the front of hive opening at the bottom, and a mason jar slips down into it. Currently, beekeepers are not advised to use this type of feeder, as it does not provide enough food at one time for the entire colony – it is instead recommended to use an internal or division board feeder. Additionaly, in the fall, honey bees from other colonies can make their way to these front feeders and eventually begin robbing the hive. Top feeders are large reservoirs of sugar-syrup placed above the hive, usually made of plastic or wood, and have a small space where bees can climb into a screened area and go down into the reservoir to consume sugar water. There are some drawbacks to these feeders though. If the top cover does not cover it well, bees from other hives may find ways into the top of the feeder and either drown or return to rob the hive. On the other hand, if you make the top cover tight enough to keep out robbing bees, the syrup can mildew/mold. Also, there have been reports of beekeepers having a top feeder break and leak 2 gallons of syrup into the hive, drowning bees and disrupting the colony for days. Frame or division board feeders slip in between frames in the hive, actually taking the place of an individual frame. Essentially, it is a thin bucket about the size of a frame that the bees can eat from within the hive. These are not perfect either, and require going deep into the hive to fill. Bees can drown in these, or fill empty feeders with burr comb.
Another suggestion for this time of year is to complete your in-hive work as quickly as possible, close it up, and then stay out of it if possible. Propolis is the glue that holds all the pieces of the hive together; every time you open your hive, you break the propolis seal. If you do this late in the year, when warm days are over, the propolis may not seal properly again. Hives can then be blown apart in the winter by strong winds. Plan to get out of your hives early enough to allow your bees to reseal the hive properly with propolis on a warm day.