There are several very important things you should be doing and checking for during October. Winter preparation should be at the foremost of your mind and begins now!!! For optimal overwintering, bees should be disease free, healthy, and well fed. We will cover all these important topics in this article.
We have readers from all over the globe. Please remember that beekeeping is entirely regional. However, beekeeping management is similar during the different seasons of the year regardless of location. This month's tips are for the beekeepers who are experiencing temperatures up to 90º Fahrenheit during the day and 30º-70º during the night. For Texas this is October, for other states or countries this could be August! An overview of a seasonal beekeeper's year can be found here. https://www.timbercreekapiaries.com/post/grow-your-blog-community
Now For Some Tips!!
1. Remember to remove queen excluders! Bees will begin to cluster as temperatures start to drop. When weather start to drop below 55º and stay there for extended periods of time the bees will cluster. As the bees move upwards eating their stores, the queen will be trapped below the excluder and freeze or starve to death. Removing your queen excluder will prevent this and keep you queen in the center of the cluster where she belongs!
2. This is also a great time to put entrance reducers on your hives! As the chilly weather blows in, mice will begin looking for warm homes. Don't let you hive become a field mouse boarding house!! Also, if using a wood reducer, place the reducer with the large hole facing up. (See below) If the reducer is placed face down the bees can clog the hole up and trap themselves in. If your area is heavily infested with rats and mice a metal reducer may be necessary as mice can chew through wood if they are determined enough!
3. Tilt hives slightly forward so rains will run out of the hive. This can be accomplished by placing a small piece of wood under the bottom board at the back of the hive. (Note) if your hive has a screened bottom board this isn't necessary.
4. Don’t forget to check stored supers to assure that moth crystals have not evaporated! You don't want to find all that precious comb destroyed in the spring!
5. If your hives have screened bottom boards on and more than 10 in. above the ground, place a wind block at the base of the hive. This will prevent cold winds from coming in and stirring up the hive. You can also seal the screen off with a piece of cardboard or a wood slide.
6. Consider feeding pollen substitute to help increase brood production. Nutrition is important during this time of the year because the hive actually has to raise "higher quality bees". Winter bees have to live longer compared to the 6 weeks of other seasons. High quality protein (pollen) is and excess of it are vital. You want well fed larva and "Fat" bees going into winter!
7. Feed sugar syrup if the bees have less than 35-45 pounds of honey. A full deep frame holds roughly 10 lbs. of honey.
8. Don't forget to check on your Varroa Mite levels. Don't let these little monsters take your hive out. An article on Varroa can be found under Pests and Management.