BY KATHY COX
Here we are already in deep Fall. Have you put on a winter feeder with dry sugar? (Check your hives’ sugar at Thanksgiving, New Year, Presidents Day and every 2 weeks after Valentine’s Day. Make sure you are giving them winter patties.) How about a moisture quilt? Did you take off the top boxes that were mainly empty? Then, you are taking good care of your bees, unless you neglected treatments for mites! This is when the queen lays the winter bees who have fat bodies to take them through the winter to spring. FAT BODIES: a section of tissue that holds fat cells and glycogen, protein and high concentrations of mitochondria and enzymes. The fat body is the equivalent in insect terms of a mix of liver and fat storage. It is in the storage of the nutrients that surround the larvae, which is used in the pupal stage when there is no feeding. It is what the mites are sucking from the pupae. If you have mites the winter bees will not last until spring. It is usually the strongest hives who succumb to mites in the fall and winter.
Did you know that the queen ramps up her laying in late December after the Winter Solstice? This is the time to change to regular patties with a greater amount of protein. This is a time when hives can starve. The additional bees eat more sugar, so keep an eye on it. Look for dandelions to bloom. Spring is coming! That is early forage for bees along with fruit trees. Bees don’t forage unless the temperature is above 55 degrees.
Now what do you do when you cannot work in the hives for months? This is the time to buy new equipment and build and paint it. Most new beeks forget to buy shims. Don’t forget to order one for each colony. It is a good time to buy a new bee book and read on the gloomy days of winter. Learn how to do something new! Google comb honey, splits, swarm collection and natural comb. It is a good time to plan your spring planting for the bees. Some excellent bee plants are: Phacelia, borage, zinnia, lavender, oregano, bee balm, thyme, cosmos, sage, salvia, sunflowers, mints, clover, autumn joy sedum and fruit trees. It is a good time to get a mentor. Check out neighborhood captains in your area. Contact them to see what they can do for you.
In January you should be ordering new bees. Our January meeting will introduce you to the vendors. There will also be information on the PSBA website in January. You can order packages (these are usually put together in the almonds when most of the hives across the country are in the California valleys for pollination.) Packages have no drawn comb and are unrelated bees who are weighed out into a box. The queens are raised separately and are also unrelated. They come caged and you release them after 4 days. In addition, in the almonds the beekeepers split their hives and make nucs. (nucs are related bees and queens who arrive on drawn comb and usually are built up well by the time we have a blackberry flow.) Both are not genetically ready for our weather and can have a difficult time overwintering. You need to make sure to feed, feed, feed. Local nucs from overwintered mother queens are, in my opinion, the best. They are also not available in large numbers, so order early.
Now a paragraph for NEW BEEKEEPERS. I am a neighborhood captain and get asked about what equipment is needed to get started. So, this is for you. (You can contact Mann Lake Bees (or other bee suppliers) and request a catalog.)
For each colony:
5 medium boxes (You don’t have to do deeps which are 100 pounds when full) or 2 deeps and 3 mediums)
50 frames, 50 foundation
Screened bottom board
Notched inner cover
Also: suit and gloves, smoker, j hook and scraper tools, frame jig, nails, Varroa EZ Check.
Optional: follower boards, frame perch, bucket, cardboard nuc box, bee brush, spray bottle, lemongrass oil, pro health or other feeding supplement, pollen patties.
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Bee kind, bee well,