As the dark nights draw in our Colonies will start to settle down in their clusters keeping the cold at bay. Well, they would if frosts and cold had arrived!
This picture was taken early in the month with a Queen Bumble getting her last supply of food before going into hibernation. The bees will do the same on fine days with the eternal search for those last blooms for pollen, if not water or an essential cleansing flight.
If you have a hard surface outside the front entrance to your hive you will find the remains of many dead bees lying on the ground. This is of no concern with a healthy colony as they throw out their dead and keep the hive floor clean and tidy. Those of you who keep their Varroa screens/ slides in will note in the debris directly under the cluster, bits of wax as the colony start to open cells and consume food to maintain heat within the hive. This is always an easy way to check you have a viable colony without having to take a roof off and delve inside to see what is happening.
This is also the month to get your Green Woodpecker protection on before the little “laughing darlings” make match sticks of your lovely soft cedar hives. They are normally ground feeders, yep! they do find their food in rotten wood as well, but when the frosts hit and the ground is unproductive they will find unprotected hives.
I find about 2.5 meters of Rabbit wire works best for me, as it is free standing and sits far enough away from the hive to prevent the Woodpeckers using it as a perch to attack the outside wall of the hive.
When Chris and Guy helped to put wire around the hives at the Association Apiary we had to ’suit up’ as the bees objected and came out to play! Okay it didn’t help that we were taking off roofs to put in the laminated Record Sheets that Chris has designed and produced. But it does show how warm this month is and the Queens will be breeding well into this Autumn weather.
There are many arguments for and against insulation of the hives for the colder part of the winter when it finally arrives. If you don’t use insulation above the cluster just make sure you seal the holes in the Crown Board so they don’t lose all their hard won heat onto the inside wall of the roof. It doesn’t have to be anything special – a sheet of cardboard or a square piece of wood will suffice.
The Varroa floor these days gives plenty of space for air to circulate so condensation within the brood box should not be an issue.
Those of you who are part of that well known breed of ‘Skip diver/dippers’ may well have found thrown away bits of sheet insulation that builders use to insulate roofs and walls these days in renovations or modern builds. These can be cut up quite easily to fit within a roof or empty super (eke) of a hive and does work well I am assured. Those of you who are organised like Chris built insulation into all of the replacement roofs we use at the Association Apiary, but most of us are playing catch up on that front!
Best advice is to leave your hives alone, just ensure they have plenty of food above the cluster in the form of Fondant if needed. But there is plenty to do repairing or building frames and other bits ready for next season.
The latest addition to the Association Equipment is a renovated Burco Boiler which you can sterilise your old frames in using Soda Crystals. But be aware – it is a hot corrosive mixture that sterilises combs well, but you will need eye protectors and stout gloves when removing the ‘boiled frames’ ready to swill them in cold water. The Burco Boiler is presently stored at Will’s, who is trying it out for the first time, so call in advance to arrange collection, no rush to use expected.