Caring for Honeybees in Late Summer: Battling Varroa Mites and Nurturing with Pollen Substitutes

It’s hot in Chattanooga! This summer has seen temps in the 100’s and they are still in the 90’s. If I’m being honest I feel like a really bad beekeeper in the Summer. It’s hard to go outside and tend to bees when I don’t want to go outside. I did a 7-hour removal outdoors last month and I got so dehydrated it took me a month to recover.

As the scorching summer sun blankets the southern United States, beekeepers take on the vital task of ensuring the health and wellbeing of their honeybee colonies. August is a crucial month, demanding close attention to combat the ever-threatening varroa mites before winter arrives-while providing essential nourishment through pollen substitutes. These efforts are pivotal in maintaining thriving hives and supporting the essential role honeybees play in our environment.

The above photo shows an overheated beehive. The bees hang out on the front porch to help keep the brood nest at the proper temperature (around 94 degrees). They have enough space, they are just HOT!

The graph below depicts how the mite effects the honeybee from brood to>the individual bee>to the colony and honeybee populations outside of your own hives.

August marks a critical juncture in the fight against varroa mites, one of the most significant threats to honeybee colonies. These tiny parasites latch onto adult bees and their brood, weakening the bees’ immune systems and potentially leading to colony collapse. Beekeepers in the southern US must employ strategic varroa mite treatments to control their population. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategies often include the use of organic acids like formic acid or oxalic acid, which are applied with care to minimize harm to the bees.

Integrated Pest Management Approaches

There are several techniques that can be utilized as part of an integrated pest management approach to reduce varroa mite numbers. Regular monitoring and adapting treatments are essential to curbing the mite’s devastating impact. Here are some things to take into consideration when it comes to IPM:

  • Manage drones by using drone foundation frame in your hive (in Spring) and remove it once capped
  • Put a medium deep brood frame in the brood box. Bees will put drone cells there and you can pull them out.
  • Screened bottom boards (close them up in winter)
  • Brood breaks can split the amount of mites in a colony
  • Sticky bottom board to observe what’s coming out of the hives-look for fallen mites
  • Drone brood examination during inspections to check for mites
  • Distinct (painting hives) hive colors to help prevent drift
  • Thyme oil/essential oil products (Apiguard, etc.)
  • Oxylic Acid is good for washing mites off adult bee bodies but it doesn’t help with mites that are reproducing. It only gets a small portion and when there is less brood. Not good for peak populations.
  • Stressed colonies have more difficulties so make sure you are taking care of your colonies giving them the resources they need. I use Honey Bee Healthy and SuperDFM

One of the best resources I know for helping beekeepers make treatment decisions. Here’s a link: Honey Bee Health Coalition Varroa Management Tool

August slipped away into a moment in time..

The next late Summer early Fall battle for honeybeees is finding food sources. Lots of rainfall can can harm bees. There is a lot of research related to the effects of humidity on nectar production and the sugar concentration of the nectar. These effects create an issue with the quality of forgage for pollinators. Rain can reduce the fertility of unprotected pollen. *2

A frame with lots of colorful pollen

As many flowering plants wane during late Summer, beekeepers play a vital role in ensuring their colonies receive proper nourishment. Pollen substitutes, carefully formulated mixtures that mimic natural pollen, can provide essential protein and nutrients to bee populations. These substitutes can be provided through pollen patties placed within the hives. Beekeepers should ensure these supplements are of high quality and are free from contaminants. A balanced diet boosts bee immunity and contributes to robust colony development, enabling bees to thrive even during lean times.

Many beekeepers use pollen sub or open feed it.

To do this just place it in a large bucket and set the bucket sideways so the bees and pollen are protected from the weather. Some make patties for their hives. I would warn against leaving patties in for too long as the Small Hive Beetles like to a. eat them b. lay their eggs in them. A good practice is to make a small patty and change it out every other day.

It’s good to remember that beekeeping is local! What we do in Eastern TN you might not want to do in Northern Ontario. It’s important to connect with beekeepers in your community and learn from someone in the same climate as you! I hope you learned something new from my little blog! Leave a comment below if you learned something! ~Carmen

*Link to Varroa Graph Article

*2 Effects of Rainfall on Both Flowers and Pollinators: Link to Article