Fall Hive Management
Fall is the time to take care of the bees that take care of the bees that will be overwintering! You want good, healthy strong hives/bees going into winter.
Final treating for mites, checking for problems, combining weak hives, and feeding if your hives don't have a good reserve built up.
Fall doesn't start when it starts to get cold. Fall starts well before then.
Mid August I treat the hives for mites. I treat them three times. Twice a week apart, then I wait a week and treat again.
This is also when I begin combining weak hives. Pinching queens I do not like and combining their hives to hives with better queens.
By mid October it is usually getting cool here. The days when the bees are flying begin to come less often.
I remove supers. I start feeding, depending on the natural flow. If the natural flow is GOOD, feeding can wait. If there is a dearth, then feeding now will insure the bees have time to reduce the moisture in the syrup and cap it. They will be back filling the cells in the brood chamber that the queen has stopped using in preparation for winter.
Using three medium boxes, I NEED to see all three of these boxes well filled with capped honey or syrup. If a hive is low when the last week of October rolls around, I can swap in frames of honey from the supers I removed earlier to make sure they have enough. (100 - 120 lbs of stores was not sufficient for the brutal winter of 2013-2014)
LOW MITE COUNT, and Plenty of stores are the two MAIN things to make sure of at this time, assuming a strong colony.
In August, If a colony is weak, combining it with another colony that is weak at this time will significantly boost that colony, and give them extra help in securing and preparing winter stores. If the colony is weak late in August there is not time to rebound. No time to become strong enough to fulfill the winter prep. STRONG through winter, will mean you can split them in the spring to replace the weak colony you combined. Taking a chance on two week colonies may mean you have NONE to split. Splitting a dead colony only gives you two dead colonies, and they are VERY hard pressed to make surplus honey for you!
Strengthen them, split off a nuc in the spring to replace the loss, and the hives you combined will VERY likely make extra honey to thank you.
If there is a reason you cannot combine you can shake the bees out in the yard, and let them pick a new hive, or you can reduce their space, possibly even down to nuc size if necessary.
A late cut out has a good reason to be weak, and is a good candidate for an overwintered nuc. A hive that you have struggled with since spring is another story. There is a reason it is weak. Combine it or shake it out. The best solution here would be to combine the late cutout with this hive. Kill the queen in the weak hive and keep the queen from the cut out, because you KNOW the queen in the weak hive has issues. Feed them to get them up to weight for the winter.
Feeding the bees 2 to 1 syrup for fall is discussed in the feeding section. As is treatment with Fumagilin B.
I will still touch on these things here. If you have the resources, Meaning frames of honey, use those rather than supplying syrup. I do prefer to give them SOME syrup, because I want them to have the fumagillin. Finding a hive alive in early February, then checking on it in early April to find it dead from Nosema is heartbreaking. They managed the winter, but not the disease.
Fumagilin B will help them overcome and conquer.
In this situation, the syrup with fumagilin IS the best thing you can do. Syrup, and pollen substitute are NOT as good as the real thing. However, Syrup and pollen sub Beat the HECK out of nothing.
If your fall flow fails, it is YOUR responsibility to see that they get what they need! You don't need to go overboard. Providing a feed station with pollen sub and treated syrup is usually sufficient. However, hives that are very light need to be fed individually and FAST.
I use three holes in my jar lids for building comb. I use six to eight holes in the jar lids to get them to STORE the treated syrup.
I will use my Jar stands shown in the feeding section with a gallon of syrup over the hive when necessary to make sure they get the syrup into the cells and cap it.
Timing.. Please do not wait until it is starting to get cold. You want Strong colonies of young bees, with NO mites, and full reserves going into winter. Fall is when you insure these conditions are met.
Pics and vids will be added as the time approaches.