Thursday, September 19, 2013

Are your bees ready for winter?

On my walk earlier this week, I noticed that the locust trees are getting tipped with yellow.

Yes, fall is here already, so are your bees ready for winter?

Do they have enough pollen/honey to last them through the winter?

How do the bees themselves look?

Are they queenright? How does the brood look?

So, how exactly do I determine if my bees have enough stores to last them through the winter? The answer, of course, is that it depends. Bees in the southern parts of the USA need fewer resources than those in the northern parts. Beekeepers in Alabama, California, Florida and Texas usually overwinter their bees in a single deep or a single with a shallow super. Beekeepers further north or in higher altitudes usually recommend a double deep configuration. You need to make sure that the size of the colony is right for the size of the box they are in!

In this location, NW Ohio, I have overwintered bees in singles, in doubles, and this winter, I am attempting to overwinter some in 4 frame double nucs.

My honey producing colonies, 4 of them, are in a standard double deep configuration. I could not lift the back corner on 3 of them, which means they are way over their minimum 150 pounds of stores for winter. The last one was surprisingly light and, you guessed it, it got fed.

My singles are the packages that I used this spring and summer for queen rearing and to make my nucs. For those, I aim for 70-80 pounds. Lifting wise, if all the frames have their comb built and they make me go "hmmmmpf", then they are good to go.

My nucs were all made in late July/August. For those, I want to make sure they have at least 2 combs of honey/syrup.

While checking the honey/pollen stores, I also looked at the bees themselves and the brood.

It takes about 20 days for a worker bee to emerge after the egg is laid. So, right now, in September and October, my bees are raising the winter bees, or the bees that will carry the queen through winter and raise the first few brood cycles in the spring. So, if you are treating, or need to (I am not), now is the time to do it as you want those winter bees on the top of their game.

Finally, make sure the hive is queenright. Do you see worker brood and eggs? If not, I like to use this hive's resources to boost my other hives. Beekeepers take their losses in the fall!

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