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November - December
Check your hives for winter stores even if the hives were adequately heavy on a recent inspection. This year (2015), has been a really nice, long, warm fall / early winter. Nice weather in late fall / early winter allows the bees to get out of the hive and fly but there is usually near no nectar sources available. They are using winter stores to fuel these flights and collecting little to nothing to replace these stores. Flying seems to require more honey than does the minimal cluster heating needed at this time of year. Therefore, your recent winter stores may have been reduced to a dangerous level.
Get your mouse guards on all hives. An entrance reducer should serve well as a mouse guard. They are not there to help keep the hive warm but to prevent mice entering and making a "super messy" winter home.
Generally speaking, in this area of north Alabama, there is not much going on in the bee yard right now except to make sure you have adequate feed for the bees to make it through the winter. In this area of north Alabama the bees need a minimum of 60 lbs. of honey to safely survive winter and 100 is better because that provides a safety margin. A general rule is that one full Medium (Illinois) super is approximately 60 lbs. and one deep is approximately 100 lbs.
Unless you have a compelling reason to open your hives, do not open them.
If you do need to open a hive it is best to wait for a warm day when the bees in the yard are flying.
What I do is rap on the side of the hive with my knuckle with my ear at the entrance. If there is no "sound" response from the bees they may be dead or gone. If the bees are OK, you will normally hear a shot burst of a low level roaring sound much like revving up a gasoline engine.
If you think you have lost a colony, pick a day when your other bees are flying and go in and investigate. If you have fewer than a pound of bees, it is best to mix that colony with another colony. If the mixed colony makes it through the winter, you can likely split it come spring and get you lost hive back. If it does not make it, there is little chance the two as individiuals would have made it had you not mixed them.
If you have a colony that is out, or near out, of food and you are feeding to prevent starvation, the syrup needs to be such that the bees can cluster under the syrup, therefore a "through the inner cover" feeder is probably best or some form of fondant on the top bars or where the bees can cluster under it. Baggie feeders work well but not to prevent starvation because the bees have to break the cluster to get on top of the baggie. In cold weather, they can't do that.
Survival feed should be 2:1 syrup but keep an eye on it and make sure that the syrup does not crystallize in real cold weather (click here for syrup mixing suggestions).
You can not allow the bees to run out of feed, if feeding to prevent starvation because they will store very little if any of the surplus syrup in cold weather.
Remove any deadout hives and store them with Paradichlorobenzene (preferably out of the bee yard) until you can get them cleaned up and ready for re-use come spring. Be sure and protect them from mice as they will go inside, overwinter and make a really big mess.
If you have strips in your hives, get them out in accordance with their manufacturers instructions.
1. If your removed supers have any dark combs (particularly if caused by having had brood in them), they are a target for wax moths. If needed, treat them as follows:
· Use Moth Crystals PDB (Paradichlorobenzene) do not use Moth Balls (Naphthalene)
· Stack supers to be treated 3 high, then place a ¼ sheet of newspaper with about 3 TBL spoons of PDB.
· Repeat every 3 supers.
· Close all lower entrances, as fumes are heavier than air.
· If a queen excluder is placed above the top PDB, you will get better air circulation and more effective results.
· Check the stack at least once a month, if PDB has evaporated, replace it.
· Before you re-use the treated equipment let it air well (until no odor is present) before using with live bees.
If combs are not discolored and / or you desire not to use PDB, cross stack the supers so as to allow maximum light and ventilation exposure. Wax moths hate both light and circulating air. Be sure and protect all stored equipment from mice.
2. Start your planning and shopping list for next year. Remember that suppliers will normally not ship foundation in cold weather due to the probability of breakage in shipment.
· Since we do not have another official meeting until next year, don’t forget to leave clues such as beekeeping supply catalogs with items marked so your spouse or other obligated gift giver can find them.
Discuss your planned purchases with said gift giver as though you want their input. Make sure you mention that you plan to purchase just after Christmas to allow time to build and paint. This way you plant a gift idea in their mind and assure them they will not duplicate a “surprise” purchase.
3. Decide soon what your bee needs are for next year and get package, split and queen bee orders in as soon as the supplier will take them. March may be too late.
4. Make sure you have left adequate stores for your bees to survive the winter. If too light feed sugar syrup or high Fructose corn syrup or other methods of choice..
5. If you leave a queen excluder in an active hive, make sure it is above the food chamber so the queen can reach the food.
· Reasons to leave a QE include spacing above menthol (between the menthol which is on the top bars of the top most box and the inner cover) to allow better air circulation.
6. Do not harvest any medicated honey. If you have a super of medicated honey that you would like to harvest,
· Remove and harvest the top super from any other colony that has not been medicated; replace it with the medicated super. CAUTION; make sure you do not take the queen in either super.
7. Make sure you reduce the hive entrance during late fall and winter months to prevent the entrance of field mice. Most bottom boards are “reversible” if turned shallow opening up; no entrance reducer is needed. If you turn deep entrance up, you need to use an entrance reducer.
· Entrance reducers should be placed “slot up”. Some winter die off is normal. “Slot up” allows the live bee to climb over the dead bees to exit.
8. Remember, if you sell (or consume) comb honey, it should be stored in a deep freeze for 3 days to kill Lesser Wax Moth eggs before it is sold or consumed.
· Honey stored in a deep-freeze, should not crystallize.
9. Keep weeds trimmed from entrance as this hinders flight and ventilation.
10. If you have weak failing colonies between now and winter, mix them with a strong colony.
· HOW TO MIX
· Remove the outer and inner cover from the strong colony.
· Place a sheet of newspaper on top where inner cover was; make sure it covers the entire super. Make sure it has no holes big enough for a bee to pass through.
· Separate the weak hive from its bottom board.
· Set the weak hive on top of the newspaper.
· Slide the inner cover on the top (weak) hive back ¼ inch or so to allow ingress – egress.
· Put a spacer (entrance reducer works well) to prop the outer cover up to allow the bees to go in and out.
· WHY TO MIX
· If they are weak and you re-queen.
· You will be out the cost of a queen
· You will be out the cost of medication
· They may not make it through the winter
· If they don’t, it will likely result in Wax Moth damage
· If they are weak and you combine them
· You greatly increase the likelihood that they will survive the winter
· You have no additional cost
· Come spring, you can split them, if they are strong enough.
· If they are not strong enough, you may have lost both colonies had you tried to over winter separately.
12. Robbing as the result of taking honey off or medicating.
· To help prevent robbing it may:
· Help to place an entrance reducer ‘big side up’ in the entrance.
· Make sure no other holes exist in the hive.
· Place a menthol bag over the IC vent hole.
· The bees do not like the menthol odor and will not try and enter the vent hole.
13. If you create a Bee robbing problem while Beekeeper robbing, the following procedure will often stop robbing:
· Immediately insert “or change” an entrance reducer with the smallest opening exposed.
· Stop up the inner cover vent hole and all other openings.
· Place one of your Fume Boards over hive entrance. First charge it with Fishers Bee Quick (or equal) place the end on the entrance point on the bottom board as far away from the entrance as practical (charged side in), prop the other end against the front of the hive. Scotch it with a steel “T” post or similar.
· Smoke the outside of the hive heavily.
· Do not remove Fume Board until after dark that day or the next day.
· Re-orient entrance reducer with big slot exposed within the next few days, and this time of year, leave it until spring.
· Unstop IC vent hole a few days later.
14. How do you tell a hive is being robbed?
· The hive being robbed will have thousands of bees frantically trying to get in the entrance and any other opening in the hive as well as the interface point between supers even though the can not enter there. You will be able to hear a lord roar a little like a swarm except a lower pitch. In the early stages, there will be bees fighting at the entrance.
· When you approach the apiary (or your yard if the hives are in your back yard), there will be lots of bees flying in all direction, very fast, and they will sting. Any empty, spare or junk equipment you have will have bees either going in and out trying to get in.
· WHY IS THIS ?
· The bees do the well known “figure “8” waggle dance” if the nectar source is more than 100 yards from the hove. The “fig. 8” tells the other bees direction and distance to the source.
· If however the source is within 100 yards of the hive, the recruiting dance is not a “figure 8” but instead a “round” dance.
· Obviously, a round dance does not include direction and distance.
· The round recruiting dance says ”there is a nectar source somewhere within a 100 yard radius of this hive – you go find it”.
· That’s why the bees go wild in your yard when a hive is being robbed since in most all cases the robbing bees are in the same apiary, in close proximity with the hive being robbed.
· This is why you often lose your weak hives if robbing is started.
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Last updated 11/24/2015 BRF