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Getting Ready for Winter

Aoife Nic Giolla Coda An Beachaire Vol.71 No. 9 September 2016

September is here and our summer is over. While it was not a very good summer, some colonies have had a surplus honey crop. Supers should be removed at this stage and stored away. While you may be leaving on a super of honey for the bees over winter, it is not a good idea to leave all the supers on over winter. This is a large area for the bees to try and temperature regulate and a smaller space is easier for them.

Getting ready for winter

The sooner you can remove your honey crop, the better. I always harvest it in the beginning of August. This allows for plenty of time for the use of the Apiguard treatment while the temperature is closer the the 15 degrees Celsius. IT is also better to reduce varroa populations as soon as possible, so that the developing larvae are not being burdened with a high mite load, which results in a shortening of their life. Ir is essential to have varroa free, long-lived, healthy bees this time of year going into the winter.

Queen excluders should be removed over the winter. The colony may wish to move up into the super above the excluder during the winter for extra warmth. However, if the excluder is on the queen gets trapped and isolated below, ultimately leading to the death of the colony.

Make sure all hives are bee tight at this time of year. Reduce entrance size to prevent robbing and allow guard bees to protect the hive more effectively.

Late Supersedure and Uniting Colonies

You may have a colony which has raised late supersedure cells. Unlike swarm cells, proper supersedure cells are generally a bit later in the summer. There are usually between 1 and 3 of them in the colony, generally around the same age. The queen can often be still alive and laying in the colony. It is a sigh that the queen may be failing and that the colony wish to replace her, even though she could be OK and survive in another colony.

If it is early/mid August that you come across this situation, the new queen emerging could still have a decent chance at mating. However this is all relative to the amount of drones still available in the locality, which is generally dictated by the weather and the amount of stores coming into the hive.

A supersedure cell in September has a much slimmer chance of success. You could take the chance that the new queen will mate but it is at a high risk of losing your colony over winter. In this situation, it would be wiser to get rid of the supersedure cells (and queen if she is still present). Then unite the colony with a queenright one. This can be easily done by lifting one brood box onto another and placing a sheet of newspaper in between. Prick a few holes into the newspaper. Both colonies will chew away slowly at the paper, allowing the odour of both colonies to mingle and combine.

Uniting can also be carried out if you have a colony which is too small t survive the winter on its own. Many small colonies, say on 3 or 4 frames, will not be able to maintain the correct temperature in order to survive the winter months.


September is the time to carry out Autumn feeding if necessary. The colony requires 35-40 lbs of stores to carry them through the winter, so if your colony is not at this weight in September you need to feed. The most common feeds for Autumn are 2:1 sugar syrup. This consists of a ratio of 2kg white sugar to 1 litre water. Add some warm water to the sugar to melt it. It can be topped up with cold water to the correct ratio. Keep stirring until dissolved.

Another common feed is invert sugar syrup. Ambrosia syrup would be an example. It does not ferment. It is fructose and glucose so the bees do not need to use energy to invert it before storing. It is also very thick, which means less ripening off of moisture for the bees before storing.

The best way to feed this time of year in with a top feeder like an ashforth or miller feeder – there are many different types on the market. It is put directly over the brood nest where the bees access it easily. Ensure that it is well covered over with the roof placed on it properly to prevent robbing from other bees. It is a good idea to reduce down the entrance also to defend more easily against robbing. Never spill the syrup if you do ensure that it is washed away quickly.

Dead Drones

You might find lost of dead bees on the ground in front of the entrance of the hive in September (or maybe August). If you look more closely you may see that they are drones being killed off by the colony. This is a natural occurrence this tie of the year, when the colony is feeling the autumn chill and start preparing for winter.

Results of the 75th Dublin Honey Show

Class1 st2 nd3 rdVery Highly Commended
1G. Clancy-J. SummervilleM. Nolan
2J. Summerville---
3J. SummervilleR. FitzpatrickG. ClancyE. Fuller
4J. SummervilleD. & T. O’BrienE. ByrneB. O’Reilly
5J. SummervilleH. Martin
6K. PreschM. Gleeson--
7M. NolanR. FitspatrickG. Clancy-
8T. LynchR. BreslinJ. SummervilleJ. Fuller
10J. SummervilleJ. Keogh--
11P. WalshG. ClancyJ. HillO. Devane
12O. DevaneM. MathewsB. O’Reilly-
13O. DevaneS. MurphyB. O’ReillyA. Hamilton
14S. MurphyB. O’ReillyJ. LeonardJ. Cowan
15A. HamiltonO. Devane-B. O’Reilly
16O. ReillyH. MartinA. Cullen-
17A. O’SuilleabhainO. ReillyH. MartinK. Norton
18J. SummervilleD. McCartneyA. HamiltonM. Mathews
19J. SummervilleD. McCartney--
20D. McCartneyJ. Summerville--
21D. McCartney---
22T. O’BrienAlbert HamiltonS. MortellS. O’Hara
23B. O’Reilly---
24L. McCleanJ. SummervilleR. KleeB. O’Reilly
25C. MerriganO. Devane-D. Christodoulides
26M. WallS. O’DwyerM. O’NeillP. O’Brien
27M. KellyV. GroultJ. Thorp-
28S. GroultR. TimminsD. MorrisV. Groult
29S. MortellJ. GroultP. WasylecS. Groult
30S. GroultK. ShoebridgeJ. GroultSt. Michael’s College

Get ready for the 2019 Co. Dublin Honey Show!

It’s that time of year again when we beekeepers prepare our entries for the Dublin Honey Show.  It’s the highlight of the beekeeping year, and we Dublin beekeepers welcome visitors from everywhere to participate in our show.

This year we are staging our 76th honey show on Saturday 2nd November, from 10:00am till 4pm at Christ Church, Rathgar.  There you will find:

  • The best Dublin honey for sale
  • A competition for the best honey / mead / candles / photographs etc. If you are a beekeeper, come and enter your produce – and try win a prize!  If not, come and marvel at the beautiful exhibits.
  • A craft fair
  • Face painting
  • Teas, coffees, sandwiches and delicious cake

If you are keen on buying honey, do come early because we always sell out.

If you are entering the competition, you will need the schedule of classes and the rules.  You can download them here and here.  You can enter online using the form at, or download an entry form here.

Finally, if you are a member of the Co. Dublin beekeepers’ association and can spare a few hours to help out on the day, we’d love to have you.  If you can help out, click here to email John.

John Keogh, Honey Show Secretary

Congratulations Olly

Olly Nolan a member of the Co Dublin Beekeepers just won gold for his entry into the Blas Na hEireann food awards and then some……. Congratulation to him on his success.

“Super excited, still can’t believe it, I’ve just won #gold for my heather #honey at the Blas Na HEireann Irish Food Awards 😀😀😀

As I was picking up the award they announced that I was also ‘Best in #Dublin‘ too, can you believe it, best food producer in Dublin.

Well done to all my busy #bees 🐝🐝🐝💤💤💤💤💤🍯🍯🍯🍯🍯”

#Blas2017 #ollysfarm #irishhoney

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Honey show this Saturday, 5th November

The 24 jar class

Finally, the Dublin Honey Show is upon us.  The cups are polished and ready for this year’s winners, the Dublin Beekeepers’ Association honey is bottled and labelled ready for sale, the volunteers are all signed up and ready to make the show run like clockwork, and throughout the county and wider country, competitors are putting the finishing touches to their entries.

The Irish did very well at the UK National Honey Show last weekend as you can see here, and some of the winning entries will come to Dublin to try their luck.  There are a number of competition classes that are designed for beginners, including the ‘dark jar ‘ class where the honey is judged on taste and aroma alone, so if you are relatively new to beekeeping competitions, do try a quick entry – you never know!  The entry form and rules can be found here.

We look forward to welcoming you all to our honey show.  As well as a beekeeping competition it’s a chance to buy honey from Co Dublin and to browse the craft stalls which are always popular. It’s held at Christ Church, Rathgar D6, from 10:30am to 4pm this Saturday, 5th November.

We look forward to welcoming you!  As per last year, the entry fee is €2, which goes to this year’s charity, the Royal Hospital, Donnybrook.


Simon Rees, Chairperson