At the start of the month the weather was far too warm for a ‘normal November’ if that expression can still be used in these days of global warming resulting in a shift in our seasons.
The picture below, shows a Queen Bumble on 8th of the month still working the ‘winter flowering Forsythia’ before she settles down to hibernate for the forthcoming winter.
One would expect the hedges to be full of Hawthorn Berries and Sloes ready to feed the birds, especially the winter visitors, but if you look more carefully there are a lot more of the Autumn bountiful fruits to be found.
Then you suddenly find Dandelions flowering and Red Clover which the insects that are still about will make good use of prior to the first frost arriving. (Red Clover is no good to our bees of course as their tongues are not long enough to reach the bottom of the flower!)
As we close down for the winter, those DIY jobs you should have done in the dryness of summer are all rushed to be finished and when I took off an exterior handle on our back door, found what a Solitary Bee had left behind to hatch out in the spring. All carefully moved to a dry cool place hoping they might survive.
As all the leaves fall from the deciduous trees, everywhere looks drab and normally pretty horrible.
The bees will be out on cleansing flights and collecting water but they have little else to do as cold and damp creeps in for the next few months. All we can now do is ensure they have ‘chicken wire’ around to keep off the Green Woodpecker, Mouse Guards on to keep out vermin and ensure they are waterproof.
I always leave in my Varroa slides so I can see what is dropping through my mesh and help me decide if I need to treat once the Queen stops laying and then they will be broodless.
Then I can ‘gas em’ and hopefully kill most of the adult Varroa riding around and feeding off the winterbees’ fat supplies as parasites do to survive.
I’ve been surprised, as always, by the extent of the mites killed by my thymol treatment in August and they kept on falling through the mesh floor well into September and October as the weather was so mild and the thymol continued to work. More on this next month.
There have recently been warnings from NBU on ‘hungry colonies’ which is a little strange for this time of year, as most of us will have fed well with Fondant or Syrup well before now.
If in any doubt the colonies are a little short of food, pop on a lump of Fondant in a sealed container or plastic, so it keeps moist, and see if the bees take it down – they will let you know if they are hungry.
I’m often asked about insulating colonies to help them through the cold of the winter (if we get any cold that is). In years past I had some Latvian friends (immigrants from WW2) who back in the ‘Home Country’ used to put an old jumper on top of the colony under the roof each winter, a new one each winter to keep them warm under the feet of snow which used to visit them from Russia.
But when did we last have a hard winter with feet of snow? But if you wish to insulate go ahead, put it on top or around the sides, the Varroa floor will give plenty of ventilation.
My main colonies I leave alone but any Nucs I over-winter, are in Poly hives or have a block of ‘Builders Insulation,’ found abandoned in a skip, jammed into their wooden roofs.
Other than that, leave the colonies well alone and let nature take its’ course. They have been dealing with winters long before we came along and put them into Skeps and Modern hives.