These are some of the last hive inspections I’ll perform this year.
The parts where I’m actually inside a hive are written in italics.
00:00 — Timelapse intro.
00:24 — Introduction to each hive.
03:45 — Hive top feeder.
04:15 — Adding protein patty to swarmed hive.
05:50 — A jar feeder vs hive top feeder.
06:25 — Creative installation of jar feeder.
06:55 — Adding protein to 2-medium hive.
07:25 — Mold in hive top feeder. (Also: Cold weather = cold syrup = bees won’t touch it.)
08:10 — A failing colony with no bees.
09:05 — Salvaging a weak colony.
10:15 — Plastic hive top feeder. (Some call this a German style feeder.)
10:50 — Assessment of strong colony.
11:10 — Another colony in not so great shape.
11:40 — Adding a protein patty.
11:55 — Assessment of a colony with an old queen.
12:55 — Summary of my beeyard and my bees.
13:15 — A frame holder that I don’t use (yet).
13:55 — Assessment of lagging beeyard.
I didn’t give my bees protein patties in the fall for about 10 years. But then I took a deeper dive into what are called winter bees, a corner of honey bee biology that I’d neglected over the years and, honestly, it hardly ever came up in my conversations with the beekeepers I learned the most from. Winter bees barely show up in most of the books I read. Nevertheless, winter bees are a thing and it comes down to this:
Unlike regular worker bees which usually work themselves to death in about six weeks, winter bees need to stay alive for up to six months so they can attend to their queen and keep everything running smoothly over the winter. Think of them like bears that fatten themselves up before winter. They load themselves up with pollen (or protein), holding as much nutrients and energy in their bodies as they can pack in. The more quality pollen they can stuff into themselves, the better off they’ll be — and so will the colony — going into winter.
I dump on pollen patties in the fall just to make sure the winter bees have what they need to be the healthiest bees they can be over the winter. There’s really no shortage of natural pollen in my area at this time of year, but when I have extra protein patties to spare, I think, “Why not give to the bees?”
I avoided fall protein feeding in the past because I didn’t want to stimulate my queens to lay more eggs. More mouths to feed means they burn through their honey quicker. But apparently the winter bees just stuff themselves with pollen and it doesn’t trigger another brood cycle. So… we’ll see what happens. This is the first time I’ve given extra protein to all of my bees.
Feeding Sugar Syrup
Contrary to misleading information that occasionally gets tossed around, there is nothing wrong with feeding honey bees sugar syrup when they’re low on honey in the fall. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t have to, but it’s better than letting my bees starve.
I got tired during the first week of September and slacked off on all my beekeeping chores. I should have topped up my weaker colonies with sugar syrup then but I didn’t. And now I’ve got a bunch of hives with probably about half the honey the bees need to get through the winter.
That’s bad beekeeping, but what I can say? I have 10 hives spread out over three locations; I do it all by myself; and my full-time day job keeps me stuck in an office all day where I have no time to drive to my beeyard to see how my bees are doing. Sometimes I just can’t keep up with it.
And now the weather has turned so cold that the bees are taking down hardly any syrup, which means they’re not storing anymore syrup and they’re probably not capping much of it either. So that’s not great.
I’m hoping for a couple of weeks of unusually warm weather so my bees can take down more syrup and cap it before winter sets in. Beekeepers in more central areas of Newfoundland such as Grand Falls and Corner Brook probably aren’t nearly as concerned as I am. Beekeepers in inland areas of the island have it pretty easy. They’ve got plenty of warm weather left in their year. Not me. It’s already getting cold and damp in Flatrock and I can see my bees are shutting down. Again, I’m crossing my fingers. In boca al lupo!