Quarterly Update from Andy

Hello fellow bee people.

Quick cold fall, but a nicer, sunny day as I’m writing this.  We never really got our indian summer did we?  Lots of syrup feeding this fall for many of us.  And pollen sub sure does help keep queens laying.

Mite treatment was a little sketchy this season.  Many beekeepers treated their hives this fall using trusted products and good timing, but still had trouble making the mites die.  It didn’t seem to be a resistance issue to any one particular product.  Beekeepers who re-checked mite counts following treatment could at least give another dose or try again using a different product.  And often these secondary treatments were more effective.  Of course earlier is always better than later for killing mites, so we’ll all see how well wintering goes.

Nearly all the bees headed out of state have been moved to their warmer locations.  More and more smaller-scale beekeepers are participating in the almond pollination gold rush each year.  I saw a lot of great looking, strong hives in these “Exit checks”, I also saw a lot of still-struggling hives.  Many hives just wanted to shrink.  I had troubles with this in my own bees, more than I’ve ever experienced.   A hive might look a little small and get put together with another, then a visit the following week might find it again to be on the small side, so another would be combined…  If you had to deal with this dwindling, I hope your numbers have stabilized and your bees are beginning winter with both strength and weight.

It won’t be long til it will be a good idea to get out on that special sunny mid-40s degree day and pop some covers and heft some boxes.  See if the bees have moved up to the top boxes.  See if the boxes are still heavy or if they’ve burned through food stores.  I believe these winter checks have become more important in recent years.  If bees are upstairs and they’ve eaten quite a bit, you can always add more food.  Feed “winter patties” or dry sugar or fondant or candy boards … just be sure they have access to good empty calories.  With the cost of bees as high as it is, saving even just a hive or two from starvation will likely cover your cost of this emergency winter feeding.

Winter is also prime time to fix up that aging empty equipment. Spring comes fast.  My boxes are as ratty as any of the worst of yours, so this is mostly a note to self.  What I really should do is create a hive body burn pile and buy new … instead what I hope to do is scrape and paint anything solid enough to withstand another few seasons of handling.  Frames can be scraped.  Greasy old black combs melted down or discarded. These winter chores are so easy to procrastinate, but it really is rewarding to get good and cold now and then.

Enjoy the winter. Come on springtime.  See you all soon.

Andy

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