Bee Thinking About For October, 2012

Here are some things, geographically and weather-dependent, to consider for your apiary about now. Remember, this is in geographical generalities, as we have readers ranging from northern Canada to Paraguay. As always, your comments and contributions are welcome at

Things to check:

Brood pattern: Check that it is good, although its size will be diminishing, even more so in northern climes as laying really dwindles by the end of October. If it’s not a good brood pattern, do you have at least 20 pounds of honey in the hive? (That’s what the queen needs to keep laying.) If your area has suffered from the drought, food for bees may be hard to come by. If less than 20 pounds, consider supplemental feeding (South) or combining (North).

Honey placement: The books tell us the best place for honey is above and to the sides of the brood nest. However, your bees may not have read the books. You may need to redistribute their honey a bit.

Enough food? Google results will take you to a variety of gadgets to weigh the hive, or you can always use the heft test. If you can barely lift it (just try to pick up a bottom corner, and remember, lift with your legs!), it probably contains enough honey.

Unfortunately, how much is needed varies widely by geographic area, and the beekeeper you ask. We’ve heard 70 pounds are needed in Minnesota; a successful West Virginian beekeeper told us he leaves that much on as well. The best thing to do is to check with successful beekeepers in your area for their recommendations. Eric Mussen, of UC Apiaries at the University of California tells us that 30-60 pounds (depending upon how far north you are) of honey are needed for the bees, and that fully filled deep combs hold about five pounds of honey; mediums, between three and four pounds each.

If there aren’t enough stores, consider supplemental feeding and pollen patties-unless it is already too cold and the bees have gone into cluster.

Hive health: Hive beetles and Varroa mites can still compromise a hive’s health. See August’s issue for suggestions on how to detect and address them. If you have a weak hive, hopefully you also have a strong hive with which to combine it. Two weak hives do NOT make a strong hive; they instead just make a larger weak hive. For combining hives, see the Newspaper Combine Method article on page 13 of this newsletter.

Things to do:

Prepare hives for winter: Mouse guards, entrance reducers, hive wraps, ventilation methods, redistributing honey stores if needed, Mountain Camp Method (see pages 8-11) if you’re in the very northern climes. We’ll be covering all of that in November’s issue.

Fall medications: If you use them.

Remove honey / supers: Unless you’re in the middle of a substantial nectar flow, it’s probably time (or past time) to remove. Page 4 contains an article on what to do with the supers in the off-season.

Reduce space: Continue to reduce the hive to ensure the bees can patrol everything to keep critters in check (South) and keep the hive warm enough (North).

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