Greetings Beekeepers –
Fall has arrived. I would like to think my bees are set for winter. I will visit them occasionally for the next month or so as weather allows, but I will do little that requires digging deep into the hive. I try to bother the bees little until the winter weather breaks as the new season begins. They have organized the food and brood area as mother nature trained them over a million years. The hive has been sealed strategically with propolis. At this point would my interference improve the situation? Hummmm….
There are those beekeepers that would like to “manage” their bees through the winter. Some go into the hive to move frames placing them where it seems the bees might best use them. That is not my style. If I and the bees have done well in preparing for the coming cold, I will let them take charge.
Some of my colonies will receive the Mountain Home treatment – basically five pounds of sugar on top of newspaper placed on top of the frames in the top box. A shim will give me the extra space I need. Inner cover and telescoping cover will go on top.
The sugar provides a bit of insulation above the cluster, food if needed, and will absorb some of the moisture created by the bees. Later a quick peak will tell me if additional sugar is needed. I prefer to disturb the winter cluster as little as possible.
I was pleased with the lack of robbing early in the “post season.” It seems that forage was available longer because of the warm weather we have had giving the bees blooms to work on. That has changed in the last few weeks. Now opening a hive needs to be done expeditiously. Neighboring bees are interested in an open hive, but the yellow jackets and their cousins make life miserable for a beekeeper at these times. It seems more critical this year.
I have mouse guards on all the colonies and have reduced the entrances severely.
I had an interesting observation recently. I was sitting and watching the reduced entrance on the landing board on one of my colonies. The mouse guard has 3/8 inch holes. Apparently a yellow jacket had entered the colony and the bees had killed it. There was a team effort to remove the bright yellow dead body through the mouse guard. It was challenging. After a number of minutes they moved the deceased to the front porch. A single worker proceeded to fly off with the body depositing it at a distance from the colony. Job well done.
A question came in about screened bottom boards. Thirty years ago screened bottom boards (SBB) became popular as we attempted to remove varroa from our hives. It was hoped that the bees would groom their sisters and drop the mites through the screen to the ground. Nice thought. It does happen, but not sufficiently to solve the varroa problem.
We learned to use the slide below the screen to monitor the mite level in the colony. This still can be used to provide limited insight into the mite situation, but it only provides a trend when inspected over time. It is not a mite count. We realized that we needed to count with alcohol or powdered sugar.
I now use both SBB and solid bottom boards. I see no difference between the two in winter survival. I do leave the slide in the SBB over winter, but do not feel a need to switch to solid bottom boards in the winter. Heat is not lost through the bottom but through the sides and top. With the slide in place, it controls the winter wind.
NIBA had a great meeting in October with a presentation by the beekeepers from the Buckfast Abby in England. Ain’t Zoom great! NIBA has earned its place as the largest bee association in Illinois. Whether you attend meetings online or in person, NIBA is a valuable resource.