November 2019 Beekeeper’s Corner

By Jerry Przybylski, local bees preferred

Winter is coming… well not really winter like in a temperate climate.  In most parts of Our County, with day-time temperatures above 50ºF, our bees will be able to forage all winter long, even in the rain.  With pollen coming in, our bees will be raising brood. The gum Eucalyptus in our neighborhoods bloom from the beginning of the rainy season through January.  Brazilian & California Pepper tree, citrus, mustard, manzanita and weeds provide more November-December-January forage. Beekeeping is local!

Continue to maintain a water supply for the bees. Long term forecasts say we can expect little or no rain for the next couple of weeks.

Colonies should be downsized by now. Supers off. Honey extracted. Empty boxes removed.
Remove extra pollen frames too. One per brood box is enough. The bees prefer the fresh pollen anyway.

Check hive weights to make sure the bees are not running low on food, or getting honey-bound either.
Avoid inspecting, or do a quick inspection. If necessary, inspect on a warm wind-less day.
Frames for white crystallized honey from ivy, capped or uncapped, can’t be used by bees in winter, so feeding may be necessary even when there’s honey in the hive.
Look for pollen coming in. Compare the length of bee abdomens of bees leaving and returning. Stretched abdomens of returning bees means nectar coming in.

Robbing will continue to be a problem while forage is scarce. Narrow up entrances to one or two fingers.
With screen bottom boards, bees can freely circulate air from below even if a 3/4×3/4x 13″ stick blocks the rest of the entrance.
With solid (migratory) bottom boards, use a 4″x13″ strip #8 hardware cloth rolled into a “U” to block one side of the entrance, or use a Robber-screen. Both options give the bees climate control choices while improving  security against robbers.
When our own hives rob, the robbers can bring back Varroa.  So, even if hives were treated this fall there can be Varroa surprises during fall and winter. Big colonies are more likely to be robbers.

When the under-side of a top-cover cools below the dewpoint, moisture in the hive from transpiration condenses there. The problem gets worse as we get deeper into winter. Water dripping on bees is bad. The moisture under the cover also promotes mildew growth.
Mitigation:  place a slab of foam insulation on top of the hive’s top (migratory) cover to reduce heat loss.
A stack-up of inner-cover under plywood under insulation under the telescoping cover works pretty well.
Phil provided plans last year for making an insulation board from Home-Depot into an insulating telescoping cover.
Tip hives a few degrees so water reaching the bottom board flows to the front and out of the hive.
Clean feral wax and excess propolis from boxes and unused frames. Identify damaged or rotted out equipment to replace. Remove and render the oldest wax.  Repaint the equipment that needs it. Propolis scrapings can be dissolved in alcohol (“alcohol fuel” from the hardware store) to make a water-repellent wash that can be painted on the inside of hive boxes. Propolis retards fungus growth.
Review beekeeping notes. Plan for next spring. More hives perhaps? Special equipment for a new experiment?
Make the shopping list and place the orders now. Assemble, and paint before getting overwhelmed by Christmas.
Spend some time plowing through this year’s reading list.
Read about the new things you want to try next year.
Search around for beekeeping conferences you might want to go to next year.
AHPA in January in Sacramento; ABF in January in Schaumburg, Illinois for starters. UC Davis hasn’t announced yet.