September is drawing to a close. We have passed the fall equinox and now nights are getting longer than the days. Forage, other than a small amount of asters, is about nonexistent. Robbing of weak hives or hives with too large an entrance will be occurring. What’s happening in your hives?
The bees will only be venturing forth for orientation flights or to gather propolis. You will be seeing them sealing cracks and plugging entrances in preparation for winter.
The first week of October is a good time to assess the strength of your hives. I do this by lifting the inner cover and counting the seams between frames that a filled with bees. 8-10 seams equates to a strong hive. 6-7 seams a medium hive. 5 or less is a weak hive that needs immediate attention. Weak hives usually do not make it through the winter. Two weak hives can be combined after eliminating one of the queens. Weak hives can appear to be strong based on activity at the hive entrance. But this is usually from robber bees entering and exiting. That’s why it’s a good reason to lift the inner cover and actually see what is happening. Weak hives this time of year can also indicate high varroa populations. If you haven’t treated for mites, please do it now, so that your infected hive won’t contribute mites to your neighbor’s hives.
The opportunity for feeding underweight hives is also drawing to a close. If need be you should get the feeder in place. Syrup can always be added to the feeder in the dark. Although sugar syrup may not freeze during October the bees will be reluctant to ingest cold syrup. Consequently, the syrup may be consumed only during a few hours on a warm afternoon.
The entrance reducer should presently be on and with the 4 inch opening regulating bees movement. This helps maintain hive warmth and aids the dense of the aid against robbers and hornets.
Mouse guards should go on at about the time of the first frost. The first frost will trigger the mice to begin looking for winter quarters. Each week sees overnight temperatures drifting downwards.
The ratio of phoretic mites to bees is also rapidly increasing at this time of year as the hive reduces brood rearing and the hive population declines. Mid to late October is a good time to do an oxalic vapor treatment or an Apiguard treatment. Throughout the winter the fewer mites in the hive the better.