By Kathy Cox
BOO! Is it a trick? Or a treat? I hope everyone treated for mites! No tricks! The weather is telling us that it is time to prepare for the winter months ahead. By now, the queen is laying or has laid her winter bees. You are changing to feeding dry sugar now that the daytime temps are below 55. Have you put on moisture boards or a moisture quilt? Moisture quilts can be made using a shallow box and #8 hardware cloth. Make sure to drill a few holes in each side covered by a piece of screen to provide insulation. A piece of half inch rigid insulation under the top cover is a good plan. I keep mine on all year round. It keeps it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Lift the back of the hive. If you can lift it, keep feeding sugar and pollen until you can’t.
The sticky board is your detective board when you cannot open the hive. Clean it off and give it a light spray of Pam. Check it after 24 hours. You can tell how many frames the bees are on by looking at debris. You can see rectangular dark pieces of wax moth feces. Going directly above that pile of poop is where to find the culprit. When there is a warm day, you can look for the webbing and cut out the problem pest. If you do find that warm day, you can move frames of honey and bee bread next to the cluster.
If you have robbing screens on, it is a good idea to change to entrance reducers. Why? Because there will be a lot of dead bees in the months ahead. You need to be able to scoop out the dead from the bottom board. I tape a long thin stick to my J hook hive tool for this purpose. Use the hook end to scoot across the bottom board, bringing the dead to the front and out of the hive. Dead bees stink. Your colony will be better off with the fresh air.
Now let’s talk about the pollen patties. There are what are called Winter patties. These have less protein than regular ones, so the queen does not ramp up her laying during winter. She will lay enough to keep bees in a constant static state. So, make sure to order now, so that the vendors don’t run out when you need them.
This is a good time to read a book about bees. If you don’t have the Bible for Bees, it is called the The Hive and the Honey Bee. There is another one called The ABC and the XYZ of Beekeeping! Get the greatest resource books in your library. And make sure to spend some time googling some things you and your bees experienced this year, like laying workers (find out the life cycle that indicates when you might find them), disease recognition and swarm catching (if you are going into your second year, you may want to try this and you MUST be prepared to do so). And while you are doing all this learning, learn to learn from your mistakes. Revisit what happened during the year and think about why. Read about what went wrong. That is the best way of having it NEVER happening again.
While you are knee deep in snow, it is a good time to order equipment, so you have plenty of time to build it, paint it and air it out before April. A few extra boxes are handy for the unexpected swarm or to put frames of honey in before extracting. An extra hive tool comes in handy when you misplace yours. Robbing screens that you didn’t know about last season are a must to keep out yellow jackets and an extra inner cover to put on top of the bees when you have to move a box to get down to the next one. (You would be so surprised how easy it is to move a box when you aren’t worried about bees flying up into your face!)
And for something fun to plan for, how about planting for the bees. All the garden catalogs come out at the new year. Maybe in 2022, you want to plant some new flowers especially for your girls. Make sure to spread out the blooming season from Spring to Fall. The Xerces Society has a good book called 100 Plants to feed the Bees.
Next month we can discuss what a new beekeeper needs, i.e., equipment and protective gear for those thinking of keeping bees in 2022. I will talk to you about buying bees and what that means. But, for now, our next meeting on October 26th will have a new feature. We will have a beginners lesson at 6:30pm and BREAKOUT ROOMS after that. Rooms are as follows:
Buying your first honey bees and equipment
Planning for your first year
Processing Honey Bee Products
Ideas for Health and Christmas
Winterizing our Hives
Setting Your Colonies Up To Thrive
Treatments for Varroa
Various options discussed
Each room will have an experienced beekeeper or two in attendance. Make sure to come and help us with this new adventure. If you have suggestions for things you would like covered, you can email me or Kit Hiatt, our President.
Now go carve a pumpkin!
Education Chair at PSBA