Now we are into October the weather has turned more autumnal although the bees are working the ivy during sunny spells. In fact some hives are working as if there is summer flow so they have a super to collect this last bout of activity. The presence of a super prevents the brood nest from becoming congested with stores and allows the queen to continue laying, albeit at a lesser rate.
Feeding should be about finished by now. Bees are reluctant to take stores down If the weather turns cold so, if some colonies need topping up it is better to do it sooner rather than later.
The next job on my list before winter is to place mouseguards over entrances although I normally wait for the first frost before doing so. Mouseguards can knock off pollen loads from incoming foragers and pollen is vital for colonies while brood is being produced. Do tap the brood box before putting mouseguards in place – otherwise you could be trapping mice in the hive for winter!
The last job before winter is to wrap hives with wire netting to prevent woodpeckers damaging brood boxes. I am in the process of moving netting to apiary sites in readiness for this tedious job. If the winter is mild we can get away without nets but if there is a cold snap woodpeckers can do a lot of damage in a short time. Trying to put netting in place in bad weather is not high on my list ‘nice’ jobs so I prefer to do it in benign conditions. That way I know colonies are pretty safe until springtime.
As the active bee season is now over I will send out apiary notes every couple of months until spring. Meanwhile, do try to get along to Improver sessions that are held are the county. They are a great way to acquire beekeeping knowledge over the winter in readiness for next the season. (See page 37 of the Yearbook for Improver group leaders.)