As we move into the cold and wet of the Autumn the numbers of Bees in your colonies will reduce dramatically, so they will all fit easily into your standard National Brood chamber or whatever larger hive type you choose to use.
The most important actions you can take to ensure they survive the winter is ‘no more fiddling or interfering’. If they are well fed, only Fondant from now on, they are protected from the elements and predators cannot get in, you’ve done the best you can and leave them to get on with it. They’ve survived many a winter before we humans came along and put them into Beehives!
They will still be active on warm days and you will see them working many of the late flowering plants and trees, many exotic, especially the Ivy and if you are lucky fields of Mustard flowering well into November (see title picture).
Those of you lucky enough to have hives in your back garden or near to home will observe even on cold days, the water collectors will be out and about and cleansing flights and debris ejection will continue until the winter frosts arrive.
I leave my Varroa boards in the floor most of the winter so I can see where the cluster is located in the hive and what debris is falling through the screens. Each hive has an old carpet square on the ground outside the front entrance, again so I can see what is being thrown outside the front door of the hive.
But beware, I left a few old combs out ready for putting through my steam wax extractor the other day to find dozens of wasps and a few bees arrived to plunder the residue of food left behind. I soon closed up the hive as I didn’t wish to spread any diseases – well to my bees anyway.
I leave my wooden entrance blocks in all winter as they act well as mouse guards rather than remove them and secure metal mouse guards.
Again be careful those of you that have the ‘Apishield’ Hornet and Wasp trap floors. I over-wintered a colony last year over one only to find the mice gained entry and had a whale of a time chewing my combs.
The same happened with the two we use at the Association Apiary. So lesson learned this year – front door of hive reduced down in size to prevent a recurrence . But it’s the end of October and still catching loads of worker wasps in ‘Apishield’ floor.
Before the real cold of winter arrives I carry out maintenance and repairs on my battered hives and other equipment prior to getting everything into store for the winter ahead.
The bees can cope with any cold temperatures our winters throw at them, but the wet and damp will do them a lot of harm very quickly.
I always give the outsides of my roofs a coat of a good quality wood preservative or teak oil to ensure any water will run off and not be absorbed by the wood or worse drip onto the Brood box and floor.
Hive stands are checked for stability and if necessary, as Chris has done up on the Airfield, strapped down so the hives don’t lose a roof or topple over in those inevitable winter storms to come.
Get a level and check water will run off the front of the hive roof rather than down the back. The problem here is of course not the back but the water that may run into the front of the hives Varroa floor or not. The way to beat this of course is to put a small piece of wood under the back of the hive ensuring it leans forward ever so slightly .
It is also time to plant those Spring bulbs. Oh so essential for Pollen collection in the spring, crocus and snowdrops leading the field. I’ve planted mine around the base of my hive slabs, less distance for the bees to fly on cold days. Yep I know I’m a sad mature Apiarist?
The next indoor meeting at Luddington, our first of the Autumn, will be by Celia Davis an excellent speaker who will talk on the fascinating subject of ‘The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee’.
Hope to see many of you there.
Next month: Woodpecker Protection and what to do in the cold of the winter.