By Kathy Cox
Can you believe it is already September? This is a big month for beekeepers. There is a lot to do before winter. Have you done a mite wash? Have you checked to see if you need to reverse boxes? Do you have reserves in every box? Have you reduced the boxes down? OK! Get busy.
To get ready for Fall, there are several things you must do. September is when mite loads peak. First, a mite wash is so important. If you don’t treat for mites, your hive will probably not make it through Winter. In addition, you risk causing the hives around you to crash with a mite bomb. Check out Randy Oliver’s Scientific Beekeeping to see the best info on mites and their treatments. Make sure you have pulled all your honey first.
If your bees are in deeps, you need to winter in two deeps. If your bees are in mediums, you need to winter in three mediums. Before you get there, you need to check the bottom box. Queens like to move UP. In summer, bees sometimes tend to put the resources of nectar, honey and bee bread in the bottom box. If this is the case and there is no brood in there, put that box above the brood. Since the queen likes to move up, you may need to reverse again in the Spring.
Are there reserves/resources in each box? Move the frames around so they have food in each box. If one hive has extras, you can take some to give to a hive that is low on theirs. This equalizing will help the smaller hive.
Monitor the hives to make sure you still have a queen. Remember you don’t have to see the queen. If you see eggs, she has been there in the last 3 days!
Now if there are extra boxes, you need to remove them. The hive usually shrinks this time of year. Too much space is space that bees should not have to keep warm all winter. If they have frames with resources, you can freeze them to give back to a hive during Winter. If the comb is empty and has not had brood in it, freeze them for 48 hours and then they can store in empty boxes. If the frames have had brood in them, freeze them for 48 hours and then store them in boxes with no more than 5 frames so there is space and air in between them and store in a very cool place. What you are trying to accomplish by doing this, is preventing wax moths from ruining your comb by laying eggs. I think wax moth is misnomer because they really are pollen moths. They lay their eggs in the pollen so that when the worms hatch, they have food.
If you have a couple of small hives, it is best to combine them using the newspaper method. If you have one queen who is better than the other, put the lesser queen and her boxes on top. She will smell the pheromones from the good queen and go down to try to find her. The bees from the good queen will do away with her. It is called “balling a queen.” They literally suffocate her. Weak hives rarely make it through winter.
If you are feeding sugar syrup, it is time to feed 2:1 sugar to water. When the daytime temps drop below 55 you can stop feeding syrup and change to dry sugar or sugar cakes.
If you have done all of the above, you are ready for the queen to slow or stop her laying and have a little rest before beginning to lay the Winter bees. These bees will live from 4 to 6 months. It is so important that they be healthy bees to take the colony to the next season.
It is also time to get the winter equipment you will need. Check out moisture quilts. You can buy or make these. They are usually filled with rabbit shavings. It helps to cut rigid insulation to fit in the telescoping covers. This can be half inch to an inch. Some people wrap their hives or put insulation around them.