Helping our bees get ready for winter

As we remove our honey crop from our hives it is time to start thinking about assisting our bees prepare for winter.

We should start off with a good inspection of our hives. We do not need to look at every frame, but keep the following issues, and suggestions in mind as you look in your hives.

Is your hive “Queen – right”?

  • Concern: Queen issues, meaning queen not present – that she has disappeared. It’s nice to see the queen, but it’s not necessary in order to know that she is there. If you see eggs, larvae, or even capped brood. Then you can conclude the colony has a laying queen. You do not need to see the queen.

  Are you seeing “all stages” of brood?

  • Eggs
  • Larvae
  • Pupae
  • You should

Remember, our hives need to be strong to have the best chance for  winter survival

  • Colonies should be strong in the late summer, or fall, if not strong now – ask yourself why?
  • Each hive will need at least 30,000 before the onset of cold weather.What is 30,000 bees? One deep hive body full of bees (most or all frames covered with bees) is about 30,000 bees.

Our hives need sufficient food stores to get them through the winter.

Suggested food stores needed?  (Suggestion for the mid-west – Ohio River Valley, more further north, and less down south)

Our hives will need 55-60 LB of stored honey (Or stored sugar syrup)

How can we tell? Count frames filled with honey.

1 deep frame = about 6 LB.
1 shallow frame = about 2.5 LB.
10 deep frames = 60 LB.+
10 shallow frames = 25 – 30 LB.

Obviously, if top deep brood box is close to being filled with honey, not unusual by late fall, sufficient food stores are present (in the mid-west).

These suggested food stores are needed by the onset of cold weather. November?

Don’t forget pollen – the other honey bee food group!

  • Do your brood frames contain much pollen? Remember:Pollen is especially important for brood rearing.
    Number of good protein supplements on the market.
    Feed in patties or dry, bees will store dry protein powder.

Are your hives healthy?

Seeing multi frames of brood in the fall should be a sign of the fall nectar flow and likely a healthy hive.

Are your hives as free of parasites (varroa mites) & disease (Nosema disease?) as possible?

Varroa mites – what are they?

  • External parasite of brood and adult bees.
  • Asian in origin.
  • Still “PRIMARILY” controlled by chemical methods.
  • WILL kill ALL bees in colonies if not controlled .

 Varroa mites – when to treat?

  • When Infestations increase to high levels – learn how to monitor. See my handout on conducting alcohol washes, and threshold levels.
  • If not monitoring or in doubt, treat in late summer or fall, especially new beekeepers

Nosema disease – what is it?

  • A disease of honeybees caused by a microorganism that infests the bee’s midgut.
  •  The disease is spread as result of cleanup by bees, and can be spread by mouth to mouth contact of bees as they pass food.
  • Symptoms can include the inability of bees to fly (crawling bees), fecal material both on the inside and outside of the hive, and dead bees on the hive entrance & in front of the hive.

However, these signs are not always present, and a labrotory test is needed to confirm infection, or if colonies are free of this disease, so …

Send sample of bees for testing to your state bee or university lab or USDA Beltsville, MD Bee Lab

  •  IF your sample is positive, seek advice about treatment with fumagillin-B from your state apiculture extension specialist, your state bee inspector, or the lab that conducted the testing.


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