Congratulations, you made it to Fall!!
Your brood should be picking up substantially, as the queen is laying her winter babies. Winter babies are the bees that are going through winter with her, keeping her nice and warm in the center of their cluster. You should start to see drones being killed. They are just extra mouths to feed, so they are not allowed to winter with the hive. Sad, but it’s nature.
Your honey should be plentiful. We had an amazing honey production year! I do want to caution you that amazing honey years don’t happen every year. So, please don’t go into next Spring with unrealistic expectations of what you’ll be able to give away to all of your friends and family.
Remember you need 60 pounds of honey for the bees to eat throughout winter. How do you know if you have 60 pounds? First, you can do a lift test.
Lift your hive from the back…not all the way, just tilt it up. Does it feel super heavy? Brood has weight too, so it should feel like it well exceeds 60 pounds.
Next, get inside and take a look. The honey frames are typically your outer frames. If that isn’t the case in your hive, rearrange your frames. Brood in the center, honey outside. Some empty cells are needed as the queen is still very much laying eggs (remember, winter babies).
In my first year of beekeeping, I lost 2 hives to mites – in the fall. The 2 hives absconded, leaving behind all their honey. I decided that instead of freezing these frames, I’d just jam pack my remaining hives that were still around with all this “extra” honey. Seems harmless right?
I came out a couple weeks later to inspect and every single remaining hive had absconded. Apparently, since I didn’t leave any drawn comb, or open cells for the queen to lay eggs in, the became honey bound and left. If you’ve ever heard me speak, you know that I am the beekeeper who has done everything wrong at least once, sometimes twice.
So, back to formation. Honey on the outer frames, brood in the center. Why? Well, first you want all your brood together as it gets colder, so they can cluster around it and keep it 92 degrees.
Second, you want all the honey together, so when they do move in cluster formation throughout winter, they can keep that formation and not break cluster. Make sense? Good. 😊
Let’s go back to 60 pounds of honey. What if you don’t have it? You need to start feeding, and right away. Try a 3:1 ratio. 3-parts sugar, 1-part water. If they don’t eat it, try 2:1. They should be gobbling up 3:1 if they are light on stores though.
Lastly, your hive should be in 2 deeps right now. The supers don't stay on for winter. You should also have your entrance reducer on your fall setting. Example below!
If you have a super on for additional feed, that's ok! But, if you are not at 60 pounds of honey by now, you will want to feed on top of leaving that super. The bees get to a point in the season where they stop backfilling your deeps with honey.
I’ll be blogging about winter feeding soon, as that is a whole other way to feed. Right now, we are still feeding liquid syrup.
Keep your texts, emails and phone calls with questions and updates coming! Love to hear from all of you!!