API of the Month

Mathieu Domecq
Editor-in-chief of the API blog of the month

30,572 tonnes is the amount of honey that French beekeepers produced in 2022. Shall we do better this year? Yet this does represent a considerable 55% increase on 2021. Will July’s drought have affected the honey in our apiaries? August is a harvest month, however, and it is time to take out all the frames. Together, we shall look at the month’s work to be planned before focusing on varroa mites in this article.

Did you know that 2,000 is the number of varroa mites found in a hive at the beginning of August. It is also the critical threshold and, without treatment or the cessation of laying, this number can rise to 6,000 mites in a few weeks before destroying the colony!


This month’s work

This month, the beekeeper’s activity is the harvesting of the honey! Here is a summary of the beekeeping work:

– Extract the supers: it is time to remove all the supers – empty or full. The hive will finish the season just with the body. Now to the honey farm for extraction!

– Treat varroa, the mite that destroys bee colonies. Without treatment, you are at great risk of losing your colony during the winter. So as soon as the harvest is over, apply your treatment to reduce its population.

– Watch out for hornets: keep trapping! Just as every summer, hornets come to feed from our hives. Hornets hover in front of the hives, in the search of protein to prepare for the fertilisation period (September–October). Both Asian and European hornets are harmful to colonies. So place traps nearby, and place muzzles on the front of the beehives if necessary.

Harvesting frames: methods

To collect the honey frames, the bees must be chased out. Three methods are often used. The choice is yours:

– The brush: the most common method that you can use to take out the super frames one by one. Shake the bees at the front of the hive, then brush them off with a horsehair or nylon brush, before placing this frame in another closed super (such as a crate) that will go to the honey farm.

Use the brush to remove any remaining bees.
Use the brush to remove any remaining bees.

– An escape board is quick and easy. This is a plastic diamond (or circle) that attaches to a thick frame cover and will be positioned between the body and the super approximately 24 hours before harvesting. With a funnelling system, the bee will be able to  go down into the body overnight, but will not be able to get back out again. However, first make sure that there are absolutely no broods in your super. This will not be an issue with a queen excluder. Set up in the afternoon, and you will be able to recover the super the next morning with almost no bees in it.

– The blower: the pros’ option! If you have a lot of beehives, this operation is faster and avoids aggression. A simple leaf blower (thermal or electric) will send the bees into the sky before they can return to the hive. Take off the super without any ado (only if there is a queen excluder) and put it on the roof of the neighbouring hive. Then close the hive. Move between the frames with your blower to make the bees fly away. This method may seem abrupt and a little extreme, but it is very practical when you have 20 hives or more. You can then leave with the super.

Varroa mite: small but powerful

Varroa mites arrived in France from China in the 80s and destroy beehives all over the world today. Despite scientific research, there is no way to stop it completely. As you can see, the beehive must be treated to protect it. There are several methods: chemicals, essential oils, acids, queen trapping methods, blocking the queen’s laying… but the result is not the same. The effectiveness and technical constraints will be different depending on your practices, especially when you are taking action.

Here is how the varroa mites develop over a season:

l’évolution du varroa sur une saison

Varroa destructor is a mite that, despite its small size of 1.6 mm, attacks the brood to destroy it. First, it eats the bee’s wings before sucking its haemolymph (bee’s blood). It reproduces only in the brood, under the larvae. Without anti-varroa treatment, the vorroa mites weaken the colonies so much that they die in the following months or, if strong, the following year. This “illness” is called varroasis. Even with a large number of beehives, I recommend that you treat them with a ready-to-use product, dosed by laboratory professionals. You can purchase the treatment from your pharmacy or vet

Make sure that you use the products correctly. The majority of treatments take place in mid-August, just after your honey harvest. Do not wait until later than September, as it will be too late to protect the hive effectively. Varroa destructor – small but formidable!

As usual, share your photos with us. They will be posted on our website from social media using the hashtag: #apifonda #apiinvert!

Wishing everyone a great harvest!


We shall be back next month on your API blog with your faithful partner,

Les Ruchers De Mathieu!

Honey & Beekeeping Shop

Photos ©lesruchersdemathieu

Working bee