Seasonal management, Nov. 2009: Time to catch up

By Stacey Adair

Seasonal management in November and December would hopefully involve time in your workshop getting equipment painted and repaired for the upcoming spring, getting frames of foundation wired up to replace aging combs in the brood chamber, and doing a little reading in your bee magazines you haven’t been able to get to these last few months.

This is also the time to pull out your apiary logs or journals and see about potential re- queening of colonies in the spring and get your queens ordered. I know a lot of the new beekeepers have heard you must requeen each year, but if you keep good records and know which colonies have produced well, and how old those good producing queens are, why take the chance on getting rid of a good producer to only replace with a queen who may not do as well? Just food for thought. But if you have experienced some of the troubles that most of us have had this fall, we are headed into winter, needing to do some emergency feeding to our colonies.

The weather has cooled off enough now that it may be difficult to get the bees to take a more liquid source of feed. They have to break the cluster to move to the feed, and if very dilute feed is available, they may not be able to use it this late in the season. Still, in an emergency, some feed is better than no feed, but a dryer type of feed might prove more beneficial. I have mentioned two forms of a dryer feed in the past newsletters which bears repeating again from comments I have received from our new beekeepers. My favorite winter feed is the fondant candy that Bob Landers spoke about at our last meeting. The process to get it to the hard candy stage involves time and labor, but the ease of use in the hive, and the low risk of any type of accidental death to the bees is of great impor- tance to me. Because the feed is placed on the top of the cluster, you can open the hive at just about any time to quickly lay a piece of fondant across the tops of the frames. The cluster is not disturbed, and you can be in and out of the hive in as little as 1 minute to feed them. I do place a shim under the inner cover on a warm day if I plan to use fon- dant feed during the winter. If your candy is thin, you can usually just turn the inner cover upside down to accommo- date the clearance needed over the candy. The recipe for a small batch of fondant will follow.

Another very effective type of feed for the winter is a feed made with granulated sugar and honey, or “goop” as Coley calls it. This feed is a little more moist than fondant due to the use of the liquid honey, but it is MUCH easier to prepare. You just start mixing honey with granulated sugar and mix it until the sugar clumps together and will hold a form. The drier the mixture the better because you don’t want it dripping onto the cluster when the weather warms up and the honey becomes warm. Mold some patties and lay across the top of the frames above the cluster. You can lay the patties on a piece of waxed paper, but don’t use an excess amount of paper. You want the bees to be able to get to the feed without too much difficulty. We have all seen colonies in the spring which died over the winter from starvation with ample stores of honey available. They were just too small a cluster to move to the food.

So as a final reminder before things get really cold outside–

    • 1. Remove any treatments which were placed in the fall (preventing chemical resistance),
    • 2. Put on entrance reducers to keep the mice out, and remove any debris on the bot- tom board ( small hive beetles love this debris),
    • 3. Provide a small amount of top ventilation for the hives to prevent condensation, (a cause of colony loss in some instances),
    • 4. Clean all debris from in front of the hives,
    • 5. Clean and replace the attractant in your small hive beetle traps,
    • 6. Provide a wind break for hives which are in the open and sus- ceptible to high winds,
    • 7. Place heavy rocks or bricks on lids to prevent blowing off,
    • 8. Place your spring queen orders,
    • 9. Check your moth crystal supply on your honey supers,
    • 10. Order your bee keeping supplies for spring before the price increases in January.

      Putting on the cardboard inserts on screened bottom boards is an option during the very cold part of the winter, but many beekeepers do fine without closing the screens.

      Hopefully you have been mindful of your colonies food stores and parasite burden, so they are ready for their winter “hibernation”. Now let’s start thinking about next spring! See you at the meeting, and please remember to bring any comments or suggestions to improve our club to any of your officers. We appreciate those of you who have already done so!!

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