The roadsides are bright yellow with bitterweed; pink-flowered smartweed covers any damp ground; and field margins bloom with goldenrod and various colors of fall asters. It is time to start preparing the hives for winter. The queens have gradually reduced their egg laying through the end of summer. Now, we would like to extend their egg production throughout October so that the colonies will have plenty of longer-lived worker bees going into winter. Unlike the bees that emerge in spring and summer which have a short lifespan, late season bees can survive the winter. These workers will be the ones that produce the food for the first brood reared early next year. We can stimulate the queen to continue to lay eggs by feeding protein to the hives. An easy way to do this is to place pollen substitute inside a weather-protected container outside the hives.
Our bees must have plenty of honey in the hives to eat over winter. If the hives are short on honey stores now, reduce hive entrances and feed sugar syrup to help the bees build up adequate food stores. It is important that the honey is positioned in the hives so that the bees can access it during cold weather. There should be some honey on the sides of the brood nest and plenty of honey above the brood. If one hive has more frames of capped honey than will be needed, the beekeeper may move some of these frames to hives that are short on honey stores. If queen excluders were used, we must remove them from the hives in the fall. Since bee clusters move upward in the hive during the winter, it is possible for a queen to be left trapped below a queen excluder accidentally left in a hive. A final issue in fall hive preparation regards ventilation. We must make sure that there is adequate air flow, especially at the top of the hive. Today’s photo: fall asters.--Richard