We're back in biz here at the Beez' Lab in Blooming Grove NY! After a break in August we are nearing the end our season here in the Hudson Valley. The ladies are foraging for the last of the fall nectar flow and pollen sources and we will be removing the last supers from the hive soon and prepping for winter.
Always work a season ahead!
Beekeepers over wintering for the first time, be advised you MUST leave your bees enough honey to over winter! 50-100 lbs depending on your hive size is vital for the honey bees. If you are unsure, leave extra. If you have new splits, give them the proper sugar syrup ratio to supplement and fill their stores before closing the hives for the year. Do not use anything but plain granulated sugar if you are mixing a syrup. Bee biology and their digestive system can only handle this very simple carbohydrate.
If you have not treated your bees, treat your bees for mites and do a mite count. There are organic treatments available including formic acid strips and the temperatures have cooled for an ideal treatment time. This time of year our hives are hunkering down and the populations are purposely declining to prepare for winter. Don't be alarmed if you see a few less bees. You may find drones outside your hive as the season continues and the drones get "kicked out" as part of the population control. If you have bottom boards with an insert, pay attention to dropping temps and consider installing these inserts within a few weeks. Evaluate your entrance reducers and entrance sizes. Robbing is one of the main concerns in fall. Yellowjackets will be lingering around the hives and anywhere there may be food. As the honey bees begin to cluster on colder nights you want to secure the entrances and provide protection. Consider a steel entrance guard for mice and other pests to protect the colony as we prepare for winter.
As we near winter Halloween is my usual deadline for zipping up the hives (depending on the seasonal temps). Honey bees do not fly over 55 degrees. I use 1-2 inch insulation board with bungees and cut pieces to size to surround my hives for winter giving a bit of extra protection and wind block. However, proper ventilation is key if you decide to insulate the hives. But more on that next month!
Supplemental feeding when bees are still active and nectar flow is low can be key to a successful winter survival. We are switching to a 2:1 simple syrup recipe in the upcoming weeks for our new hives and for winter we add a candy board over the top box as emergency feed . A few methods on feeding syrup vary from individual feeding jars inserted into the hive, to barrels full of syrup as a community feed. There are pros and cons to both, but keep in mind the community feed should only be done after all of your honey supers are removed for the season or part of your honey crop will be sugar water and not nectar. Community feeding can help with robbing and keep pests away from your hive if your apiary is large enough to be worth this feeding style. Individual feeders can be installed on the outside of the hive allowing you to see how quickly a hive is taking in the supplemental feed, giving you a better idea of their needs. It can also be installed over the inner cover and then covered with an empty super box protecting it from robbing.
Those local to the Hudson Valley know weather is strange in NY and we can have 80 degree weeks followed by 50 degree weeks. Paying attention to temps and understand the biology and needs of your honey bee colony are imperative. This is why planting a year round bee garden can also be super beneficial to your apiary and wild bees.
Remember to take classes at your local bee club, reach out to local beekeepers who are in your climate, take an online course if this suits your schedule better. It is our responsibility as Beekeepers to Bee Educated and do right by a species which has already endured enough!
Please feel free to email us with any questions or concerns, there are no dumb questions! If you are seeking more info on treatments, mite tests, syrup recipes and more please reach out! Also keep in mind there are some amazing beekeeping Facebook groups all around the country/world of which forums for questions are in abundance. YouTube videos by reputable sources are fantastic for visuals and understanding the elements of the hive before obtaining a hive.
For education links, seminars and more visit our "Bee Educated" page. If you are interested in beekeeping but have not yet obtained a colony , winter is best time to take classes and join a club BEEFORE your bees arrive. Stay tuned as we will be listing classes seminars and conferences in the tristate area.