October 2019 Beekeeper’s Corner

By Jerry Przybylski, local bees preferred

Thanks to all who contributed their Varroa assay data to Mite-A-Thon this month.

It’s officially fall, but the summer dearth will last a while longer.
Food scarcity will continue until fall flowers and eucalyptus.
The ivy honey that bees are bringing in now granulates rapidly. Bees can’t use granulated honey in winter, so lets harvest it if we can.
‘Tis the season for down-sizing hives to one (or two) brood boxes.
Rearrange: Brood frames to the middle. Flank with Pollen frame(s). Then honey frame(s) outboard the pollen frames.

Overly strong hives can donate brood and food frames to smaller colonies. Balance.
Leave at least a couple of frames of capped honey for the colony, and a frame or two of pollen (may be spread across the tops of many brood frames). The food resources will tide them over in case of extended rain and/or cold. The bees will use fresh nectar and pollen if they can forage it.
Leave uncapped honey in the hive.

Harvest excess capped honey. Spin out frames promptly before the wax moth, and SHB have a chance to do damage. (Rent equipment from Chuck)
Overly strong hives often rob, if they can find a vulnerable feral, or unmanaged, or poorly managed colony.  Those easy targets, if they’re heavily Varroa infested, can donate hitchhiker mites to our hives (as many as a dozen per robber bee, according to Eric Mussen).
Colonies that can’t cope with the influx of Varroa can be pushed into Parasitic Mite Syndrome, and tank in six weeks.
Protect (especially small) colonies from robbers with “tiny” entrances or robber screens.
We can’t just ignore our hives from now until February.
* We watch the Varroa population. Spikes are evidence of robbing.
* We check the weight to make sure our bees don’t run out of food.
* We make sure colonies don’t become honey-bound in neighborhoods blessed with a winter flow.
* We raise the backs of hives so water leaking in or condensing inside can flow out the front.
* Check for dead-outs. If AFB is the cause, close up the hive and dispose of it to preclude spread through robbing. Otherwise, harvest the honey, and protect the equipment from wax moth, etc.
Winterizing ideas:
I hate to see bees land in water when they’re foraging in the rain. “Awnings” can help.

I believe in sandwiching an inch or two thick slab of Styrofoam™ insulation between the hive’s top cover and the water-proof cover. (less winter heat loss, and less water condensing under the top cover) YMMV
Wax moth don’t chew clean white wax. Boxes of those frames can be stacked covered in the yard until needed next spring.  They can even be stored in plastic bags.
Wax moth love the cozy environment of a sealed plastic bag full of delicious dark combs.
Frames of dark wax, and pollen need protection:
Store frames in a freezer if space is available.  -or-
Store frames in boxes outside where air flows through them, and light gets in.
Since rodents like to hide out in stacks of hive boxes, or eat the comb with pollen, protect them with quarter-inch or half-inch mesh metal screen stapled to “shims” at the top and bottom of the stack.
The insecticide in moth balls or moth crystals dissolves into the beeswax; it’s generally not recommended for protecting frames. Honey contamination is a worry.
Review notes from last spring. Compile the shopping list to prepare for next spring. Boxes; frames; bottom boards; covers; nucs, etc. We’ve got a few months to build and weatherproof.