You're gonna miss it all....the fat lip stings, the running from your 'Bi-Polar' hive flailing your arms wildly as you hightail it in a most undignified retreat...the wash-over of intoxicating hive scent issuing from the sun-drenched hive, the lineup of bees staring up at you from the edge of the frames as you work the colony in silent awe of their pure wonderfulness...

However...all of what they have worked furiously hard to prepare for is almost upon them. In the winter cluster, they will disappear from our world as we watch winter envelop their hives.

So, what is there to do in these last few 'moments' before the snows fly? Really, there is quite a lot...

  • Don't break apart hive bodies unless you have good reason. From the top of the frames, observe if the upper hive body is full of honey. It should be. If not, you can feed until nights get to freezing. Use 2 parts sugar to 1 part water so they don't have to reduce the water content down to store it: no time, not enough sunny days to reduce it down by fanning, etc. Do NOT open feed. Robbing is the order of the day for all those 'do-gooders' thinking this will help. It makes for hive loss and aggressive behavior. Now is the time to remove honey supers if you haven't already. Even if they are not fully capped. Soon it will be too cold to open the hive.
  • Think winter hive moisture. What can help? A winter blanket, a pollen patty (wicks away moisture) a burlap blanket, a moisture board and the biggie: adequate ventilation. However, not so much 'ventilation' as a screen bottom board left unsealed (let’s not get crazy here).
  • Why not toss in a grease patty? Crisco and sugar made into a patty placed on top of the upper frames. These patties inhibit trachea and varroa mites from effectively communicating.
  • Still time to face your hive front to the arch of the rising/setting winter sun. Don't move your hive but just adjust it if advantageous to them. Also, protect from the wind! Hay bales, wrapping or building a wind break...all will go a LONG way to boost their survivability.
  • If you want to mite treat, as you haven't yet, and want to, then your choices are Oxalic Acid, Hopguard2 and Apivar if you can remove the strips in 42 days. Overall, I think the Oxalic is the best choice. No queen issues reported with it so far and is organic. No need to remove it either...But, again, not great idea to bust open hives unless you suspect you need to.
  • Figure out your hive entrance arrangement for mice. Get a mouse guard, or have a reducer handy to get it winter ready. Are you going to insulate or wrap? Then get your supplies together. Winter comes fast when it does.
  • Want to spoil your girls shamelessly? You can get a winter feeding board putting a fondant ceiling over them. Moisture goes up, melts the sugar, feeds and controls the moisture. (I have those too if interested). So, now that you have agonized over how to support the girls for the stretch of frigid months to come, you can join the rest of us beekeepers who soon will be    fixedly staring at our hives (or, rather, bumps in the snow) wondering when we will be able to 'play with the girls' again. Good beekeeping to all! -Kim Rivera, Addicted Beekeeper (don't even try to save me).

Big thanks to Kim for writing these October notes!

If you haven't already taken it here is a link to our very brief survey on mite treatments:

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