Beekeeping Blog

Fall Updates 2019

The bees are still shaping up well for fall 2019. It looks like primary caretaking should be finished in roughly one week, and then there will be a little cleanup duty followed by the great bee roundup. Feed and mite control continue to be the main points of focus.

Fortunately the bees are putting on weight well except for a handful of locations that still need a double dose of groceries. I have one location that will require over six gallons since the time that they were doubled in early September! I’m glad that I didn’t run many singles for honey if all of them would have needed that much support. Singles often produce a really good honey crop, but getting them ready for winter adds quite bit of pressure to get them up to weight. The first couple of gallons often evaporate for immediate use, and then you get to try adding weight. If they raise much fall brood, it slows down their weight gain quite a bit. Anyway, that has mostly been a nonissue this year. Even the Italians have stored up feed quite well since we cooled down a few weeks early. I often curse them for burning their food supply out of season. The intro image is Josi adding some supplementary feed on a chilly afternoon when the bees clumped up for warmth during our inspections. It was right on 50F, but they behaved as if it was a little cooler.

Feeding is the easy part of the job right now. The more precise aspect of inspections involves remaining committed to mite tests. It’s tempting to believe that our earlier efforts at mite control did the job and to simply move on with life. The reality is that various hives and locations have different mite levels and don’t pull back on brood rearing at exactly the same time. That means it’s good to check the situation yet again to make sure there aren’t too many parasites that could compromise overwintering or accelerate next year’s varroa buildup. We’ve had several locations that got a cleanup treatment of oxalic in the past couple of weeks. Other locations had very low mite levels and needed no further attention on that front. Here is Grace performing one of the tests that convinced us to help the bees with another treatment. I was surprised to find that these shakers seem to dislodge the mites even better than ether roll tests, though the difference appears to be slight. Both are pretty accurate methods for calculating infestation.

Ready to shake loose some varroa mites and discover our fate! The oxalic was deployed.

I suspect that some beekeepers in our region were somewhat misled on their mite loads this fall. I heard several remarks that there seemed to be fewer varroa worries at harvest time than we’ve seen in recent history. Perhaps the seasonal tests were lower, but my suspicion is that readings were skewed due to a much better late season foraging experience than we’ve seen for the past few years. That good favor also extended substantial brood rearing, which hid a lot of mites from late summer tests and treatments. I am worried that a bunch of beekeepers will go into winter with far more mites than they suspect. Unless we get another warm spike in the weather, we’re looking at another long winter where the bees need to be extra healthy to survive. It’s true that we plan for our own bees to be in California during the coldest months, but I can’t help but think about the conditions for bees that will stay in the upper Midwest as well.

There is still plenty to do, but we’re getting closer.

As a great fan of historical barns, I was happy to spot a pretty barn + bees image this fall!

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