Fall feeding requirements have been inconsistent from yard to yard. We have a good number of hives down in Muscatine county and a similar number near Kalona. It’s a roughly forty minute drive between them. They were all two-deep doubles through the honey season. The inspection schedule between all of these locations for harvest, mite treatment, and supplementary feeding has been exactly one day apart for the last month–three visits because it’s an intense time for caretaking. Down in Muscatine, very moderate feed has been necessary. In one yard the hives were so heavy that we only fed two of them on our last visit. The next day around Kalona we gave 2-4 gallons to almost every hive. That variability has kept me on my toes. I would not have guessed such a difference between those two regions because most beekeepers would look around our Kalona locations and assume that those bees had better fall forage and ought to weigh more than the Muscatine bees. I’ve learned that it’s best to never assume what’s going on until we actually look in the hives.
Spring is often about “keeping up” with the bees. If they’re healthy and the weather favorable, it’s often hard work to keep the population from swarming in May and early June. At some point in the late summer or fall, on the other hand, they usually become highly dependent on our help for survival. Need for assistance arrives early with regard to mite concentrations, but it was really just over the last 10-14 days when a significant number of our hives started losing weight as the flowers ramped down and the temperatures decreased. That’s why Josi is tipping the tote in the image at the top of the post. Our supplementary syrup in Mount Vernon is transported and stored in those right now. She’s transferring it to a smaller palletized tank with a pump on it. Here are some bees reaping the benefit:
It looks like most of next week will be decent for feeding with limited rain and temps over 60F. If it stays cooler after that point, only the stronger hives will do a very good job storing any additional supplementary feed. The weaker hives will become targets for combination because they will lack the vigor and heat generating ability to get stronger rather than weaker. Imagine being a tiny insect walking through a cool environment and taking a cold drink over and over. Brrr. That’s why we will do our best to help them as much as possible before it gets any colder.