The fall bloom is setting up pretty much as I expected in eastern Iowa. We had recurrent rain throughout the summer in this part of the state, and the moisture aided germination and vegetative growth in the late flowers. Goldenrod entered full bloom a few days ago, and asters are starting to pop open as well. Wild sunflowers are past the midpoint of their bloom, but some secondary blossoms might still yield. With temperatures in the mid to upper 70s predicted for the next couple of weeks, I am optimistic about getting a strong nectar flow over the next two weeks that should help us avoid extensive feeding this fall. We might even catch a few more barrels of harvestable honey since some of those surplus boxes are still out too. It always pains me to strip the honey boxes before the fall bloom even hits its peak, but we have to sacrifice some honey potential in order to keep the bees healthy before the colder weather descends sometime in October.
Mite control seems to be going well so far. Instead of seeing a big jump in mite counts, we are holding down the tests in the 0-2 range on a three hundred bee sample, and zero is our most frequent test result on most days. As always, there are a couple of locations that tested higher than the others, so they are going to receive a third formic pro pad while the temperatures are high enough to aid vaporization and achieve a meaningful knockdown. Then we we will probably switch to oxalic treatments to keep the mites down as we close out the main brood rearing season. I am at my most optimistic about our bees’ health in many years. Let’s hope that feeling is warranted by the time we calculate our survival rates in January. We haven’t even gotten to the initial crash period that arrives when the lows reach the 30s-40s F, but so far colony attrition has been limited.
For the next few weeks, we will busily extract honey and continue clearing the surplus boxes off of the hives. We will also get a stronger sense of how the bee populations are holding up as that process unfolds. The cool midwestern fall and approaching winter help accelerate natural processes that indicate the viability of individual hives, and what we see during the next month will shape what we need to organize for the next several months. I am hoping to report back that the bees were in fact healthy, well fed by fall flowers, and ready for pollination in their California springtime. As always, the timeline for finding out the truth will not require us to wait too long.