Autumn Bees - Oct. 2021
Early October beekeeping hasn't felt too much different from September beekeeping this year. The temperatures have stayed relatively high with moderate cooling overnight. That is good for the bees. It gives them a chance to get on the white asters and the sprinkling of other blossoms that close down the floral year once the goldenrod passes its prime. It's also easier for the bees to raise another round of brood without fighting the temperature nearly as hard to keep them warm during development.
The best surprise this fall has been that the eastern Iowa bees have actually put on a ton of weight. The same occured in much of central Iowa. Some of the last hives harvested even picked up a fair number of pounds of surplus honey. The extracting room smells like goldenrod honey right now.
I'd given up on the bees gathering anything substantial for overwintering purposes. The goldenrod was beautiful for a couple of weeks, but I didn't see anything entering the hives except for pollen. This was unsurprising since the last three falls have involved a lot of feeding to get them up to the weight we need to see for plausible survivability. A couple of weeks ago it became clear that they were putting on substantial weight. Even most of the singles were reasonably heavy in the bottom. This was partly because they mostly refused to go through the excluder despite the strong fall honey flow, but it's much better than nothing!
This year feeding is much more selective. The singles will need at least a few gallons to accelerate their storing behavior to give them food security over the winter months, but they get two gallons at the time that they are cleared of their surplus boxes to get the weight gain underway immediately. Now we need to make another round with pollen supplement and continue the selective feeding in both the singles and the doubles.
Varroa mite control continues to be the archnemesis. We do have a better handle on that situation in terms of both infestation levels and testing data, but it hasn't made the task easier beyond positive knowledge of what is happening with infestation rates. Even though my early August mite tests were 0-3 mites in 80% of our three-hundred bee tests (alcohol washes), the usual late summer mite explosion had to be addressed with perseverance--particularly when the last drone brood emerged and let those mites out into the worker population. We're mostly on top of the situation, but several locations down around Kalona still need attention to finish that job. The bees farthest from home often wait the longest for assistance. They had low mite readings all summer, so hopefully we don't have a bitter surprise down there when we visit this week.
I'm not sure if optimism is quite the right word for my outlook at the moment, but things definitely look okay at minimum. This week we will have a ten degree drop in our high temps and experience cooler overnight lows, and that will help bring out the truth of our bees' level of health. Winter nears!