Don’t let these sunny days of October mislead you as your bees may have begun dipping into their stores – especially for protein. Protein patties fed in the fall can greatly bolster the health and vitality of your long-lived winter bees. Continue to feed protein into November. At this time of year nectar sources are limited but late season bloomers like Elaeagnus ebbingei ‘Silverberry’ and Osmanthus heterophylus ‘Holly Leaf’ bloom through October and Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Soft Caress’ bloom through December.
Some other things to consider at this time of year:
Mites – it’s a good idea to do a mite test on your hives right now and see how well your last treatment worked. Most people are noticing lingering mites in their hives even though they treated in July or August. One reason for this may be that the mite treatments don’t kill 100% of the mites. Another, more likely fault is neighboring hives in the area were not treated properly thus reinfecting your hives between treatments. You can do an alcohol wash or put in a mite board for a few days and see if any mites drop from old age. If you see any mites you need to treat right away.
The ideal hive configuration going into winter consists of the brood nest concentrated in the lower box, with a top box full of honey. The above image shows a frame pulled from a brood box – the bees have moved the brood nest lower in the hive and filled the empty spaces with capped honey. This is what you want to see!
Syrup feeding should be wrapping up by now – when temperatures drop bees cannot adequately digest food in liquid form. During winter, if your hives seem to be light on food, consider feeding them dry granulated sugar or a fondant mixture (never liquid).
Your bees will be rearing new brood around the winter solstice. Feeding them protein patties now (especially if they are light on stored pollen) will give the bees the essential nutrients they will need to raise bees when pollen foraging is not an option.
Consider adding a mouse guard to your hive entrance. Mice that make homes in our hives over the winter can do serious damage to your precious drawn frames.
Ensure your bees have proper ventilation within the hive. Vivaldi-style inner covers greatly reduce moisture buildup by allowing moist air to escape through the vent holes. The added height also allows for the placement of a top feeder, or space to feed your bees emergency feed in winter.
If you have any questions regarding winter hive preparation, please call us at 541-929-3524 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org We also have some great video resources in our Beekeeping playlist on youtube.