As the seasons change from summer to fall, conditions in the bee hive and tasks for the beekeeper change as well. Summer flowers that produce light flavored honeys become replaced by fall flowers that produce more robust honeys. Beekeepers typically finish their summer honey harvests and begin ensuring that hives have enough honey stores for entering the winter months when flowers are not blooming and bees rely upon stored food. Bee hive pests take an increased toll on hives in late summer and early fall. Small hive beetle populations often explode in weak or queenless hives. Small hive beetles begin laying eggs in great numbers when they detect a hive is under stress. Within a few days, thousands of ravenous small hive beetle larvae begin consuming a hive’s pollen stores, combs, and brood. Yeast, spread by the beetles, ferments honey in the hive; fermented honey is unacceptable to the bees and useless to the beekeeper. With the start of the fall season, queen bees naturally reduce their egg laying, and bee populations gradually decrease. At the same time, parasitic varroa mite populations typically reach their annual peak. As soon as the honey harvest is completed, hives need to be checked for varroa mite loads. The Honey Bee Health Coalition offers useful information for treating varroa mites at https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/varroa/. If mite populations exceed thresholds, treatments need to be applied. Harsh chemicals should be avoided. Persistent chemicals remain in the beeswax combs and lead to resistant strains of parasitic mites.
Honey bees that emerge as adults in the spring and summer typically live about six weeks. However, honey bees that emerge in the fall may live for six months. This is important because the long-lived fall bees that survive the winter feed the first bee brood of the following year. Beekeepers can extend their queens’ egg laying through October by feeding pollen substitute which stimulates queens to lay eggs. Today’s photo: bumblebees and native pollinators are attracted to houseleek in our pollinator garden.--Richard