In 1912, Francis Sitwell famously presented a paper on heather honey to a meeting of the BBKA. In it, he pondered the many factors that may affect the honey crop, including temperature, altitude, surface soil, subsoil, drainage, latitude, humidity and more. What a complicated picture he paints. More helpful for the hobby beekeeper is the advice of many old hands: If you don’t go, you won’t know. So, it's Graham here again and I did go to the heather with a couple of hives this month, and if you did too, it’s time to bring them home. Then we’ll know.

In an earlier post on this subject, I described how I only have one super on each of my two heather hives, which means that retrieving them can be done without clearing and removing the supers, as long as I have a willing helper - my other half. Normally this would be a job for early in the morning or at dusk, both peak midge times up here in Aberdeenshire. Luckily Storm Francis struck, allowing us to collect the hives at a civilised hour while all of the bees were sheltering inside. It’s a quick job to put a piece of sponge in the entrance and strap the hives front to back (the side to side straps were left on from the start). Carrying handles make lifting much easier.

Now safely home, my thoughts turn to, in order of priority: removing the supers, Autumn Varroa treatment, and feeding.

Think about leaving your newly returned hives for a day or two so that the bees can orientate to their new location before you stir them up by putting in a clearer board. Once the supers are off, you can get the other two jobs done.

For Varroa treatment this year, I’m using Apivar. The strips will be in for seven weeks, into mid-October. This isn’t ideal. By then, it will be pretty cold up here, meaning the bees will be less active and the treatment less effective as a result. I’ll compensate for this by taking the strips out after three or four weeks, scratching the surface of each strip with the corner of my hive tool and replacing them in a different position. This has been shown to increase the rate of release of the active chemical.

If you are feeding a prepared syrup, get your rapid feeder on and start as soon as the supers are off. If like me you're using Apivar, you can safely feed while the strips are in. A bit more work for me as I mix my own thick syrup, which can be laborious but is much cheaper. I'll keep refilling my rapid feeders until the bees stop taking the syrup down, or until the middle of September, whichever comes first.

With these three jobs done or underway, you can turn your attention to what’s in your supers. Hopefully you did go, and like me you now know that it has been a bumper year!

Just a quick reminder that Asian Hornet week runs from 7th-13th September.  One of the aims is to engage the public to download the ‘Asian Hornet Watch’ app onto their phones so they have the information ready to hand to identify and report sightings of Asian Hornets and particularly nests, as we move into autumn.

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