By Gerald Przybylski
Jerry has been an East-Oakland beekeeper since 2011; local bees preferred.
By now you shimmed under the back of your bottom board so the hive tips “forward.” This allows water collecting on the bottom board to drain out the entrance.
An “awning” over the entrance will allow the bees to leave/arrive on rainy days without wading through a puddle. (Wet is not good for bee health)
By now you downsized your hives to improve heat and humidity control in the hives.
By now you’ve supplemented the weak hive or two with a frame of honey from a strong hive. Uncapped frames are better if they can be spared.
Check hive weights, or take a peek inside every week or two; a good colony may find a nectar source and fill up empty space in the hive…
Have a super available in case a hive needs the space earlier than expected.
If a hive gets honey-bound now its population will decline (not enough room for brood). It might get to the point where it can’t recover for spring. If you’re new to this game… yes… there are things to do in the hive in winter…
Work hives in winter when the air is still, and it’s nice and sunny… even if the temperature is below 60ºF. Be quick, though… to minimize heat losses.
Something blooming this fall, perhaps the ivy, produced honey that immediately crystallized in the hive.
The bees can’t use crystallized honey during winter; so if you discover any of it, harvest it.
The crystals from that honey are really small (smooth, not grainy); they make a good “seed” for making creamed honey.
Robbing pressures have been especially high on smaller or weak hives in our yard. They robbed out a nuc we were trying to get established. The lesson is to start nucs by June so they are not struggling when the dearth arrives.
Use what works… There are commercial robber screens in the catalogs.
With some screen, strips of wood, a saw, and a stapler you can make a robber-screen of your own based on examples found by doing an image-search of the Internet.
Caution… if the bees living in the hive have a hard time figuring out the robber-screen, they won’t find their way back in. This magic device could actually depopulate the hive of field bees like a trap-out does.
When the entrance of a hive is reduced to the width of a bee, the guards can do a pretty good job protecting it.
Scrape the propolis from the ends and sides of frames.
Scrape the propolis from the frame-rests in your boxes.
Save the propolis scrapings to make a tincture or varnish with. Paint it on the inside of boxes to retard mildew growth.
Repair and repaint the equipment that needs it.
Retired boxes can be repurposed as swarm-traps/bait-boxes.
Order that equipment you’ve been putting off. If assembly is required, allocate some time to put it together.
Glue box corners with waterproof carpenters glue. Glue frame joints too, as you assemble them.
Prime, and paint the outside of boxes, or find someone who can “dip” them for you in a hot wax-resin bath.
If paint peels off, apply a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil generously thinned with mineral-spirits. This will stabilize the fibers. Then you should prime and paint.
Read through the stack of bee books and magazines you accumulated this year.
Read through your notes to plan for next year.
Plan which bee symposiums you want to attend.
To paraphrase an athlete I know, practice what you suck-at. Analyze your disasters and mistakes. Up your game.
If you’ve moved way beyond those beginner books on your shelf, consider donating them to the ACBA library to be passed along to other beginners.