This is a very important time to inspect your hive. For many in the Southeast, you have already pulled your honey frames and have already extracted the honey. For those in the mid-west and northern region, you still have a few weeks of the nectar flow before you begin to process honey.
The first inspection area is what condition is the exterior of the hive in?
1. Does it have cracks? Then it is time to purchase or make a new hive body.
2. Is the hive tilted slightly toward the front? You can make a big difference in tilting the hive a ¼” toward the front of the hive. This will not allow water to pool inside the hive and freeze during the winter months.
3. How is the immediate area around the hive, such as grass and weeds? Time to mow or weed eat!
The second inspection point is to look at the entrance of the hive.
1. Are there bees congregated at the entrance? That is a good sign!
2. Is there pollen particles scattered at the entrance? This is a sign of robbing from another colony. It can also be a sign that small hive beetles are present. Either way, it is not a good sign.
3. Are the bees bearding at the front of the hive? This is actually a very good sign the colony is robust! No action is needed.
The third step is to take the telescopic or outer cover off the hive.
1. There should be a lot of bees congregated on the top of the inner cover. This always tells me the colony is robust. The bees at the top are often circulating the warm air out of the front notch of the inner cover.
The fourth step is to remove the inner cover.
1. In removing the inner cover you will need to look immediately at the frame ends to see if any small hive beetles scurrying for cover. If I see a small hive beetle, I will use my hive tool to squash them.
2. I will start from the outside frames and work my way inward looking for honey frames on the outside and brood frames going inward.
3. It is important to see the three stages of brood: egg, larva, pupa. If I see these stages, there is no need to find the queen because her brood cycles tell me she is laying brood well.
4. If I only find “spotted” brood or very little brood, I will need to make a decision…
or I need to either combine this hive with a thriving hive or take the chance and order a new queen.
If you decide to purchase a new queen, you will need to move two frames of brood from another hive to keep the colony count high in numbers for the weeks to come. Remember, colony size is super important this time of the year because these bees will be feeding the winter bees being laid in the next 6 weeks. Low population equals a low brood cycle for the Winter bees.
Now, let’s talk about Varroa. Varroa can not be ignored. Varroa is a mite that attached itself to the foraging bee as she is going from flower to flower. The honey bee becomes a host for the Varroa. The Varroa makes the honey bee weak and the honey bee can and will spread a virus within the hive. The bees within the hive can and will “drift” to other hives spreading virus’. This where you can lose up to 100% of your hives in a period of 2 or 3 months. The best offense is using an organic methods such as “Mite Away Strips” of “ApiGuard“. Each of these use formic acid, which is an all natural compound.
It is extremely difficult to start a new hive or to split a hive this time of the year. My rule is to combine hive at this point of the year and look to restock in the Spring months.
The bottom line is that we as beekeepers have to make that difficult decision now so that our colony’s do not fail in the Fall or Winter months.
Lastly, you will want to take off all supers that have limited frames of pollen and/or honey. This will really cram the bees down but most of the drone will be ushered out of the hive to die, due to seasonal changes. By the way, what little nectar is available, it will only be consumed by the colony at this point of the season.
Thanks again for choosing Mountain Sweet Honey for your beekeeping needs!