Winter is Coming....Are Your Bees Ready?
|Hive with in-hive feeder|
It is still warm and the jackets are still in hiding but it is coming. Autumn for the beekeeper means slowing down the rush of honey supering and extracting. It also means ensuring the apiary is in order for those cold winter nights.
Hopefully, you didn't take all the honey from the bees! You may get a nice goldenrod flow that will fill those empty spaces but if they don't are you prepared to feed? On average here in the south a hive needs 35 pounds of honey for the winter. That amounts to a medium of honey. If you are in the north this amount goes from 40 to 110 pounds depending just how far north you are!
A syrup made from cane sugar can be made at a ratio of 2: 1, sugar to water. It is a bit heavier and the bees will tend to store it. One gallon can add about 7 pounds to the colony.
We use cane sugar. Why? Well, while beet sugar is sugar but it doesn't dissolve in hot tap water like cane and beet sugar is known for being GMO . Ultimately it is your choice.
Don't wait till it is cold to feed syrup because the bees won't take it.
Autumn flowers will fade
Before temperatures drop decide if your hives need a windbreak from those winter winds. If they are situated on an open field a few hay bales may be just enough to do the trick. Halloween and Thanksgiving decor can provide you with hay bales and the decorator with a way to help bees and recycle! Many communities put up mazes and the like so get in touch with organizers to help with breakdown.
Propolis traps are perfect at this time.
The bees are keen at sealing things up for the coming weather. Place traps on your best propolis builders. Some hives are better than others.
It is also a good idea to replace any wooden ware that needs repair. Bottom boards, inner covers, lids, boxes, while some hive use propolis to seal you can make it easier on them by replacing cracked or crooked equipment.
How's that queen doing?
Small hives can make it through winter but not if is small because the queen is old, weak or failing. Her pattern of open larvae is the best indicator.
This is the time to merge the weak with the strong.
Merging will allow the strong queen to build her best brood nest for winter with the extra bees from the weaker hive. More bees for cluster means better chance of survival. The brood reared in the fall will live about 3 to 6 months, perhaps even longer. (quite a difference from their summer sisters)This is believed to have to do with the scarcity of pollen , it builds larger fat bodies producing more vitellogenin in the workers, thus allowing them to feed larvae thru winter when winter pollen stores become low.
This is just a short list. If you are in the north your list is longer on hive preparations. Here in the south the bees are flying most of the time but you still need to remember the bees may need support. Each hive will present it's own challenges.
Have questions? Ideas for a post? Leave a comment below!
Now get to work!
References and resources
Somerville, Doug (2005) Fat Bees Skinny Bees, A manual on honey bee nutrition for beekeepers. Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation, Australia.
Schmickl, T & K Crailsheim (2004) Inner nest homeostasis in a changing environment with special emphasis on honey bee brood nursing and pollen supply. Apidologie 35: 249-263.
4] Mattila HR and GW Otis. 2007. Dwindling pollen resources trigger the transition to broodless populations of ling-lived honeybees each autumn. Ecological Entomology. 32:496-505.