As the days shorten, the bees are still managing to find yellow pollen – probably from ivy? On the warmer days, they zip frantically in and out, bringing home as much as they can. As increasingly darker, rainy days come, they hunker down in the hive; perhaps similar to the way we curl up at home and listen to the comforting sound of the rain on our windows.
Over the years I have got into a bit of a routine with my bees when it comes to over wintering. I’ve found methods that work for me and I don’t tend to adapt them too much. I started out in 2008 and have been lucky to not lose a colony over winter yet (but it helps that I’ve only been keeping between 1-4 hives each of those years).
I like to feed fondant, and this year the bees are already devouring it fast. Below you can see the dent one of the colonies made in a 2.5kg pack of Fondabee within a week. I put it over the hole in the crown board and then pack insulation over the top.
My winter checklist:
- Late summer varroa treatment – usually I do a thymol based treatment in late August-early September (with supers off)
- Feed syrup in September if stores are low
- Switch to feeding fondant after October
- Colonies are overwintered either in a single brood box or brood box with super on top (with queen excluder removed)
- I put sheets of silver foil style insulation over the crown board, above the brood box
- Mouseguard put on in early November, after the ivy pollen has finished (as the mouse guard can knock pollen off foragers’ legs)
- Oxalic acid treatment (Api-Bioxal nowadays) done around the winter solstice
I’m enjoying our autumn colours and textures – the reds of hawthorn, holly and cotoneaster, the crunch of acorns under foot, the dewy wet grass of the field I walk over to take Holly to nursery in the mornings. This year has been a strange one, but at least in bee-world life continues as before. No social distancing in the bee hive!