November is a very interesting month for beekeepers. The key for all beekeepers is to see if your bees are “thriving” or just “surviving”. Always remember that a good beekeeper never inspects their hive when the temperature is below 55 degrees. Inspecting the hive when temperatures are lower then 55 degrees will chill the colony.
Some beekeepers are scared to go and complete a hive inspection as the Fall months is when most hives will have a “high” mite load and the colony is just surviving or dead. This is caused by not treating for Varroa. It is still possible to treat for mites so long as you follow the manufacturer directions perfectly. A good Varroa Treatment is Formic Pro which is an all natural treatment.
Small Hive Beetles
The next insect to look for is small hive beetles. Small hive beetles (SHB) are now common in most states. SHB will also pose a problem for your hive as the female SHB will lay their eggs in the pollen cells of the hive. These eggs will begin to mature once warm weather comes in the Spring months. It would be good to place Beetle Jails within the hive to begin to reduce their population within the hive. The Beetle Jail is about the only item which does a good job in reducing the population of SHB. Always remember to use Apple Cider Vinegar in the center compartment and also use mineral oil in the side bays of the trap. Please note that the Apple Cider Vinegar does evaporate and will need to be refilled every couple of weeks.
Cold Drafts will kill your bees
A good rule during this inspection is to look for hive cracks in the wood. Small cracks can be remedied with a couple coats of paint. What you are trying to do is eliminate cold drafts from coming in the hive.
You may also see propolis residue that need to be cleaned off the top or bottom of the supers. These propolis build-up’s can also cause cold drafts within the hive.
One way to eliminate cold drafts is with a hive wrap that will help retain the heat and keep the cold drafts at bay.
Feed Your Bees
While you are doing your hive inspection, look at their food stores (capped honey & pollen). There should be a complete super of capped honey for the colony to eat through during the Winter months. If most of the frames are uncapped or empty, it is time to start feeding them ASAP. Feeding the bees in November is the best due to there is no nectar and feeding the colony also keeps them hydrated. If you ignore the food stores, there is a good possibility that the colony will starve in February or March.
During December thru March when it is to cold to inspect the hive, you can go to the rear of the hive and with one hand gently lift the hive 1 inch to see how heavy the hive is. If the hive is heavy, it means there is plenty of honey stores for the colony. If the hive is light, that means there is little to no food stores for the colony and a feeding program needs to go in effect immediately.
From mid-Fall to late Winter, you will need to feed the bees a 2:1 sugar ratio.
If you were to feed a 1:1 sugar ratio, this ratio will stimulate the queen to lay more brood and then the brood will freeze that night as the temperature dive.
Reduce Your Hive Visits
Due to the low temperatures in mid-Fall to late Winter, we should not make many visits to our hives to allow the hive to retain the heat within the hive. Remember, if you have to visit your hive to refill the internal feeders, be sure the temperatures are above 55 degrees.
Planning for 2020
Now is the time to determine if you want to expand your apiary. If so, now is the best time to order your bees because the best ship dates are available. If you need to save up for the hive, you can always order the hive in January. Be sure to have the hive painted 3 weeks before your bees arrive. That way the paint fumes will be gone by the time the bees arrive.