Fall and Winter Management

In September the bees begin winding down their year. They are organizing the hive for winter and packing away the last of the fall honey. Your honey harvest should be done now if you didn’t harvest in the summer, or if you want to captute some of the fall honey.

Any extracted super can be returned to the hives just before dark. The bees will clean up any remaining honey and by placing them at dusk you will reduce the likelihood of robbing. After the supers are cleaned remove them for storage. Either freeze the boxes and frames for 48 hours before sealing in plastic bags or store under para-chloro-benzene fumigation to prevent wax moth damage.

A fall inspection should include a detailed loom at the brood best checking for diseases, pests, and queen problems. Continue to do mite counts and treat if desired. As brood rearing slows down in the fall the mites can quickly overtake a hive and cause them to abscond. Treat for tracheal mites now as well (if you choose to treat).

If you are planning on requeening in the fall, go through the hive and remove all queen cells and the existing queen before introducing the queen in her cage. Place the queen over frames of brood. Check back in 3 days to ensure queen release and to remove the cage. Check back in 10 days for eggs. If there are no eggs, attempt to requeen again.

As winter closes in make sure every hive has 40-60 pounds of honey for overwintering. A deep frame hold 6 1/2 pounds of honey, a medium 4 1/2 pounds, and a shallow 3 1/2 pounds. The amount on each frame will vary, but these amounts are a good benchmark for eyeballing the amount of stores on a hive. Feed light hives a 2:1 syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water by weight) until they have enough stores.

Add a top entrance if you have not already done so. Here’s how to:¬†Top Entrances. Each hive should have an entrance reducer and mouse guard in place. Any hives with screened bottoms should have the board slid in to cut down on drafts. Consolidate frames in your supers and remove empty boxes. If you have a partially filled super, arrange the empty frames in the center. Place a brick or rock on the outer cover to keep the lid from being blown off by winds. If you treat for nosema, fumagilon-B should be added now.

Finally, as a little extra insurance against starvation you can add dry sugar under the inner cover. Place damp paper towels on the frames, pour down a layer of dry sugar, wet the edges and top with a spray bottle, and replace the lid. A shim or an empty super can give you the space to do this. Don’t add sugar though until the outside temperatures are going to be 40 degrees or lower for the extended forecast. If it’s warm enough for the bees to fly they will fly their insurance sugar out of the hive and dump it in the yard.

Exchange any equipment out that needs repaired or repainted. You’ll have plenty of time overwinter to get your wooden ware ready for another spring.