Getting ready for winter

Being autumn with the threat of swarming at a low, the beekeeper doesn't have to do weekly inspections anymore. But although the honey has been harvested there are still a number of tasks before completely closing up for the winter. 

First, is wasp watch. Wasps are a pest to bees because they try to get into the hive and steal the honey. They will also attack bees at the entrance to the hives. This is the reason why bees are pretty tetchy at the moment as they are in defensive mode. I don't blame them, it's not unusual for whole colonies to be wiped out from wasps!

I have put a few wasp traps out - basically 2 litre plastic drinks bottles that you cut in half and then place a mixture of jam and vinegar inside. Looks like this. Wasps (and flies) are stupid enough to fly inside whereas bees aren't. I have also been partaking in some 'wasp whacking'.  Wasps seem to fly low to the ground so yesterday while reading in the garden, I managed to whack a few. 

Another reason for tetchy bees is the forage season is essentially over and the bees need to protect what they have from robbing bees (yes, bees from other colonies will go in and steal honey) and wasps. After you've taken the harvest away, you need to replace it with sugar syrup. So far I have given each hive 3 x 2.5 litres sugar syrup. That is 7.5 litres each in the feeders. However, my colony on the right of the Beehaus seems pretty low on the honey stores front. So, I think I'm going to have to feed them more before the end of the month. Bees will die of starvation over the winter, so the beekeeper has to do their bit. It is suggested that a hive weighing 18kg has sufficient stores.

The last bit of beekeeping for the season is vorroa mite control. In previous years I have used apiguard but this year I am going to give the new MAQs strips a go. I think I'll do it towards the end of this week. I have heard a mixed response - being new and beekeepers being pretty old school, the verdict is still out. But I've heard more good stories than bad so I'm going to go for it. 

Here are some photos from today's visit:

Bees flying towards their 'front door' in the sunshine.

The left of the Beehaus is definitely a busy colony. Lots of stores and brood. But I still haven't spotted the queen to mark her. The longer I was in the hive, the tetchier they were getting so I'll have to leave 'queen hunting' for another time.

The right side wasn't as busy and there is definitely less stores. Now this is the side I took the super off but I have given them quite a lot of syrup but I'm obviously going to have to give them more. I have ordered ambrosia for this (a special type of sugar syrup) from the co-op service at my local beekeeping branch.

I love this photo - a bee scrum.

Whenever I close up, I have to make sure that the hive is properly sealed shut because not only can bees get into the gaps but so can wasps.

The 'tree bee' hive was busy this morning. 

They are now occupying all the frames - a great result considering what a tiny colony they were in April.

A close-up of the entrance and you can just about see on the bee facing the camera, that it has pollen in its sacs.

Our back fence is full of ivy and when it bursts into flower imminently, it will be heaving with bees. I feel pretty pleased that there is a lot of ivy around where I live as this is good end-of-season forage for the bees. Ivy can be a nuisance to gardeners (I know - I yanked a load of it off our wall this summer) but it's a haven for wildlife. 


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