The actions that beekeepers take as they work in the hives often affect the colony for months into the future. An early fall hive inspection alerts us to actions that need to be taken to ensure that the bees will be able to care for the brood next spring. I assisted Shirley Murphy inspect her Tennessee River bee hives. We found healthy colonies with queens still laying some eggs, but at a lesser rate than earlier in the year. It’s a good sign to find egg laying activity in October. Worker bees that emerge in the fall have a different physiology from the bees of spring and summer. Bees emerging in the fall can live for six months, and they will be capable of producing the brood food for the next year’s first brood. The older bees in the hive now are summer bees that will not live through the winter. Spring and summer bees have a shorter life of about six weeks. Mike Worthy identified the queen bees, and we made slight realignments of frames to place the brood nest low in the hive with frames of honey above the brood. Since the workers were still feeding larvae, we made sure there was a frame of pollen on either side of the brood nest. Nurse bees feeding larvae like to have pollen close at hand. With a drought limiting fall nectar production, we identified hives light in honey stores so that they could be given a supplemental feeding. Bees fed sugar syrup now have enough time to convert it into honey before winter arrives.
Another visit to Agnes Stark’s Arlington, Tennessee bee hives found large populations of bees with egg laying activity in progress as well. The longer that queens lay eggs in the fall, the more workers there will be to feed the colony’s brood in the late winter and early spring. In each bee yard we found few drones; most had been ejected from the hives.