Dear Uncle Drone
I’d like to make sure I’m doing everything that needs to be done for my colonies at this time of year. Could you supply some tips on things to make sure of?
Uncle Drone answers:
During September colonies will need preparing for winter, this means three jobs – a varroa treatment, feeding, and then securing the hive.
Varroa treatment: By now (September) all supers should have been extracted and dried out. This makes it simple to put MAQS Strips on the top of each brood box, cover with the crownboard
and leave for a week. It is recommended to increase ventilation at this time so the entrance block can be removed for strong colonies or just widened for weaker ones. This is wise even if there is a varroa board in place of a floor board, and you do need this on at this time to assess the varroa drop/kill.
Feeding: Please keep in mind that bees do not work wax below 60F/15C so do not give them feed where day or (more importantly) night temperatures are close to this, hold back until it is warmer. The reducing temperatures will cause the workers to cluster and not clean the cells and this slows the Queen in laying. Once it warms up they need RAPID feeding of a strong warm syrup. Also remember that reducing temperatures means the bees are less active and will not be defending the entrance against predators so much, please reduce the entrance to keep out wasps and mice.
Ashforth feeders or Contact Bucket feeders are best for autumn feeds as these deliver a mass of syrup which will be taken down quickly and stored rather than turned into more bees. Always put this volume of syrup on in the evening/late in the day as the intense excitement it causes can start mass robbing and always use HOT water for the mix, it will normally still be warm by the time the bees get it and this will encourage quick storage. At the end of feeding you should have a brood box that weighs around 15-20kg or more.
Securing the hive: This should be second nature. Reduce the entrance. Confirm the hive stand will sustain the weight of the hive in winter winds and the roof will stay on, put bricks or blocks on the roof for extra security. Wrap the hive in a material that woodpeckers cannot rest on, plastic sacks are good, tie/staple these firmly. Also do check the area surrounding the hive, are trees likely to need trimming, could branches fall on the hives? Consider all options.
Look forward to a successful wintering, but do remember the bees and have a cursory look around them regularly.