GETTING YOUR BEES READY FOR WINTER!

September 2018 is coming to a close!

This year is my 9th year of beekeeping.  I have learned so much in these 9 years and will probably learn a lot more in the years to come.  That is why I Love being one who cares for bees.  Bees and pollinators of all types.  They teach me so much, if I just slow down to listen.

They teach the ways of nature, the rhythms of the seasons and survival of each species, whether it be insect, bird or mammal.  Since I have gotten bees, these things have become more important to me and I feel a need to share this information with others.  The ways of man have not been very kind to this planet.  This needs to change.

SO I AM A KEEPER OF BEES 

I am the Care Taker of the Bees.  I look at my roll differently than when I first started keeping bees.  Beekeeper describes an “ownership”.  Yes, I own the bees in my apiary, but…..not really.  They have been doing what they do for so much longer than I have been here on this earth.  They have a wonderful, delightful rhythm that amazes me each time that I observe them.

They know when a certain type of food is available to them and they know when food is scarce.  They know to build up the brood in the hive when there is ample food available and they know when to slow down the brood production or stop producing drones when the food is scarce.

I have also learned to respect what the bees bring into their hive.  A greedy beekeeper is the worst enemy of the honey bee!!

I grow many different plants for my bees, but sometimes I go out to look at something that just came into bloom, thinking that I will see the honey bees on it……but they are not there!  Yet, I go to the entrance of the  hive to see what they are bringing in, and there are bees with different colors of pollen and bees that are obviously full of nectar (coming in with their rear ends loaded down).  Sometimes they are not getting it from my flowers that I have grown, but a source that they have found. A source better than I can provide at the time.

I am blessed to live in an area where man had not totally destroyed all of the forage.  A lake area that butts up against the northern and western ends of my property. The land is somewhat protected from many of the destructive ways that we see today. The bees take advantage of the forage that is growing on this property and, sometimes, don’t really pay attention to what I am growing.  There are many pollinators on the forage that I grow, but the honey bees know what they need and they may go somewhere else to find it!

I am not saying that my  honey bees never forage on the plants that I have grown, they just are not foraging on them when I think they should be foraging on them.  Maybe I look at the plants in the afternoon and the bees only like them in the morning (or vice versa).  They know when the nectar is at it’s prime.  Bees are going to do what is best for them…always!

SO BACK TO GETTING READY FOR WINTER

Getting them ready for winter may not be that big of a deal if I pay attention to the bees throughout the rest of the year, and I have learned this through experience.  Knowing what kind of nectar flows there have been through the year and not being “the greedy beekeeper” will ensure that the bees have enough food to eat through the winter.  I try to stay aware of the food stores that they are bringing in.

Then there is the question of “mites”.  There has been such a scare in the beekeeping world and again, man thinks he knows what is best for the bees by putting chemicals into the hive to kill “a bug on a bug”.  This is a subject that really aggravates me!!  Why all of a sudden do we need to control this?? and WHY & WHEN are chemicals the answer??

As you can guess, I do not treat my bees for mites.  Remember “survival of the fittest”?  The strong survive….and when man thinks he knows best, the bees have already figured it out.  We just need to leave them alone!!!  We are actually breeding weak, wimpy bees by putting these foreign substances in the hive.  Many of us that “care” for our bees have determined that there is no place for this practice.  Yes, I may lose some bees, but I do not need to “prop” up nature.  Nature takes care of its self.

The Topic of Insulation

Another very controversial topic in the “getting ready for winter” category is insulation of the hive.  Let me ask you something…..where would bees prefer to have their homes?  If you know anything about bees, the correct answer would be “in a tree cavity”.  The tree cavity is thick and provides necessary insulation to the bees in both the summer and the winter.  Man again thinks he knows better (or mostly it’s for the beekeeper’s convenience of taking honey) and has put bees in thin pine wood hives.  The thickness of the walls on these hives are about an inch.  Much, much less than that tree cavity.

Bees in winter cluster together and continually vibrate to produce heat to the cluster.  In the middle of that cluster is the Queen bee.  They will keep the queen at approximately 90 degrees in the middle of that cluster.  The Worker bees will vibrate in and out of that cluster so that everyone can stay warm.  Yes, I said Worker bees keep the Queen warm.  There are no drones in the hive during winter, as the hive has kicked them out in the fall to conserve the food stores through winter.  Queens can always make more drones in the spring when they are most needed for mating purposes.

Just as it is much more efficient if you have insulation in your house, it is the same for the bees.  Bees do not heat the entire hive…only the cluster that they are in, but if the temperature is somewhat warmer in the hive, it is easier for the bees to keep that cluster at the temperature that it needs to be.

Where I live, there is a great fluctuation of temperatures.  One night we can have temps in the teens or single digits, the next day it can be above freezing and again at night be in the single digits or teens .  This fluctuation in temperatures can causes condensation in the hive.  This fluctuation can be very hard on the bees.   With insulation and proper ventilation, I find that my bees deal with this fluctuation much better and are much healthier when they emerge again in the Spring.

There are many beekeepers that do not insulate, even in colder temperatures than mine.  Again, I just want to try to provide what would be similar to what nature provides.

That ends my topic for the month. Not many pictures on this topic, so I will leave you with some pictures of flowers that are blooming in my gardens in September and October.  These are (in my experience) late blooming flowers that the bees cannot resist.

BEE HAPPY!!   ​

Holy Basil - Reseeding Annual
Holy Basil – Reseeding Annual
Honey Bee on Swamp Sunflower
Swamp Sunflower – Perennial
Hardy Ageratum - Perennial
Hardy Ageratum – Perennial

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