By Kathy Cox
What a weird bee season! The wet cold start was hard on the bees. I hope you were able to help your bees build up. If they were able to catch up to a normal season, that is great. If not, you need to be giving them pollen patties and 2:1 syrup (2 parts sugar to one part water) Making sure your bees have resources on all frames in double deeps or triple mediums, will help them get through the winter. But that is only part of the battle! You must do mite washes and treat your bees. The queen will have taken a brief brood break and will soon start laying the winter bees. If the bees are riddled with mites, the fat bodies of the winter bees will be destroyed, and the hive cannot survive. All the time, I hear from new beekeepers, “but I don’t want to kill 300 bees!” My answer to that is, “Kill 300 now or 30,000 later?” Don’t wait. Treat now. You will be glad you did. Remember the summer bees only live 3-6 weeks, but the winter bees must survive 4-6 months. They need to bee healthy!
The bees are still bringing in nectar from late Goldenrod, Asters, and Sedum. Some Knotweed is still blooming, too. Pollen is coming in at a lesser rate. Did you ever see a bee with shiny red stuff in their pollen pockets? That is propolis from saps and resins, which they tuck away in those same pockets.
Don’t forget to remove all queen excluders! And reduce bees down so they don’t have to keep empty frames and boxes heated. Make sure to tilt the hives so the water does not pool inside. It is good to leave on the robbing screens. If they are too drafty, you can cover the screen with Gaffer tape. When daytime temperatures drop below 55 degrees, the bees won’t take syrup and you should feed dry sugar or fondant. Check once a month to see if it is consumed, then add more sugar. It is also time to switch the patties from regular to Winter patties. The Winter patties have less protein, so the queen lays less, keeping the winter cluster smaller and the demand for resources smaller. Did you know the temperature in the center of the cluster is 93.5 degrees. The bees change places so the ones at the center can move to the outside of the cluster and rest. The outside of the cluster is close to 45 degrees or ambient temperature. The bees unhook their wings and shiver to create the BTU’s. Fascinating.
For more information on things to do this month, review the October ’21 column on the PSBA WEBSITE.
Don’t forget our virtual monthly meeting on Tuesday, the 25th of October. We will break out into rooms and talk bees with each other almost like being together. I will bee there!
Next month we will be voting on the TRUSTEES AND OFFICERS. Try being a trustee. You don’t have to be an experienced beek to do it. It doesn’t take much time-a few emails and a half dozen virtual meetings a year, and you can feel good about supporting our club. Give your name to me or Kit Hiatt, our president. We will be delighted to have your input. If you want to volunteer your talents, we need help in different areas. If anyone is good at website stuff, please let me know. You just need to bee able to do the technical work. I will be happy to assist with the content. Let us know where you think you can help. Our club is all volunteer. We need your support. Thanks for considering this.
There is not much you need to do with bees during the winter. So, repair equipment. Shop for new gear, before the spring rush. It is a great time to buy a new bee book and learn new things. Review your notes from the season and vow to take better notes next year. Do you have notes on your best honey producer? Which queen built up fast. Are some hives hygienic? Review how to split hives, so you are ready when you find swarm cells. Contact your neighborhood captains and thank them for all the help they gave you this year.
It seems Fall is finally here. Rain is coming. Put on the moisture boards or quilts. You don’t need to insulate unless you are close to the mountains and get temperatures in the teens. I use 6 ml plastic on 3 sides held by bungee cords, because I live in the convergence zone and my rain is relentless and can wick into the boxes if the bees have not propolized them completely. Remember the air is the coldest in the 18 inches right above the ground. Keep your sticky boards in place all winter.
Have a Happy Halloween!
Master Beekeeper U of Montana
PSBA VP, Education Chair, Neighborhood Captain
By Kathy Cox