October means fall is upon us and offers a little more time for bees to forage on the minor nectar flows from Stonecrop sedums, asters, salvia, and caryopteris.. October also means (for those of us in the Pacific Northwest) hive inspections are coming to a close due to foul weather.
Here are some things to check to be sure your bees are ready for winter:
- If your colony’s honey stores are light supplement with a 2:1 syrup. Fall feeding of syrup should be completed once average daytime temps are below 60 degrees. For feeding later in the year use either plain sugar or fondant.
- If you haven’t already done so, reduce the hive size to 2 deeps with brood on the bottom and super above or 2 western boxes of brood with super above. Remove the queen excluder if it is still on.
- If using an entrance reducer, place the opening up against the hive body rather than down against the bottom board. This allows the bees to pass through without bodies of dead bees obstructing passage.
- Good ventilation is key to a successful wintering of your colonies. Ensure your colony has both a bottom entrance and an upper entrance (on same side of the hive).
- Tip the entire hive slightly forward with shims underneath the rear of the hive, so that moisture from condensation created by the warmth of the cluster is directed to the front of the hive, rather than dripping back down on top of the bees.
- Consider closing off the bottom board (if using screened bottom boards) using sticky board material to avoid blasts of cold air entering the hive.
- If hives are in an unusually windy location create a windbreak using landscape burlap, fencing or straw bales.
Find more success factors of overwintering your hives by reviewing the latest regional management survey reports for Washington State at beeinformed.org https://beeinformed.org/2013/09/29/regional-reports-hot-off-the-press/
Photo via Caroline on Flickr