Fall in the Apiary

Here in a Middle Tennessee, September is bringing in slightly cooler weather and the Fall Flow.  Right now the bees are wide open, bringing in as much nectar and pollen as they can with an urgency!  By and large they have calmed down from being protective of their stores during the nectar dearth and we can visit with the bees with little or no protective equipment on…if we are careful ????.

With the arrival of the Fall Flow that means winterizing the hives is right around the corner.  That means pulling excess honey from the big hives that have more than enough stores and shrinking the space in the hive down into the tightest space possible space going into winter.  Shrinking the space will help the bees maintain their heat over the frigid winter as the cluster shrinks from natural attrition.

During the last maintenance of the year, we look for evidence of the queen if it’s not obvious…if you are new to our emails, looking for evidence of the queen means looking for eggs, not the queen.  Some queens may already be slowing down so an egg may be hard to find.  If there are no eggs, then a decision needs to be made…a hard decision about whether or not a colony like this is queenless.  If the colony is queenless, then there are some options.  One option is to combine hives…it is tricky, but it can be done.   Another option is to let the colony slowly die out while keeping an eye on them and grabbing the honey before anything else does.  If they are already small enough, then the bees could be shaken off of the frames and the hive box removed, and the now homeless bees would beg borrow and steal their way into another hive.  That is the extent of what would happen if a colony was queenless in the fall…it is too late for them to raise a new queen and for her to get mated in time.

As far as how much honey to leave the bees for the winter, that’s fairly easy.  In Langstroth Long or Langstroth vertical hives leave one frame of honey (open nectar counts) for every two frames of bees.  In a Layens hive leave just enough brood frames with the four inch honey rainbow for the bees to cluster up on, and one extra frame of capped honey for insurance.  That’s it!  In the fall you shrink the colony, settle in for the winter, and start planning for the rapid expansion of spring and SWARM SEASON!!!

This article was first published in the September 2023 Newsletter.



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