November is starting out with snow on the ground; which is a bit early even for central Wisconsin. Looking at the long range forecast it looks like flying days for the bees won’t occur again until spring. Yesterday I listened to each hive for activity and brushed snow away from the entrances. Brrr!
The snow will trigger field mice to look for warm winter quarters. Don’t let that place bee your hives. Get the entrance reducer switched to the one (1) inch opening. Use of mouse guards is optional.
Temperature will be low enough that hive wraps can now be installed if you are inclined in that direction. As I have stated previously, I saw no difference in survival rates for either wrapped or unwrapped hives over a period of 5 years. However, I did put wraps on 4 hives that are next to open water and totally unprotected from the winter winds.
In my apiary one (1) hive has already bit the dust. It was totally robbed out. No honey in either of the deeps. I suspect it had gone queenless back in September. According to my notes when I had graded my hives on October 1st this hive was still well populated, but I graded as medium strength, not strong. Any mites in this hive probably hitched a ride on the robber bees and moved to a new hive. Luckily, I had treated this hive with oxalic vapor in both September and October. I guess I am already out of the running for the ECWBA winter survival trophy.
I did peek in 5 hives. In four (4) hives the cluster was in the top brood box and in one (1) it was in the bottom box.
With the shortening daylight and colder temperatures all queens should have stopped laying. Also, by this time most brood should have emerged. All mites should therefore now be phoretic (not hidden inside the brood cells). Therefore, next week I am planning on one last oxalic acid vapor treatment. Based on most recommendations I have seen I will wait to the air temperature reaches 40F. Above this temperature the cluster expands and lets the oxalic acid vapor reach the inner bees in the cluster. Mite-free equals virus-free and bodes well for good hive winter survival.
My next and final task will be to add a spacer to the top of al hives to provide space for emergency sugar provisions. I do this in December when I am sure the bees will be in a tight cluster. After this last action I can only stand back and watch things unfold. I try to not to get my expectations too high. Back in the “good old days” (pre-varroa), winter hive losses averaged around 15% (85% survival), so if I get close to that I will be a happy beekeeper.