Endless Summer

We’ve been experiencing a dry, warm Autumn in Colorado.  Although we had our first hard freeze the other day, temperatures have been in the mid 80’s the past couple of days.  The bees are still out collecting pollen from the few remaining cosmos and asters, but their foraging resources are rapidly diminishing.  The boys (drones) have all been kicked out of the hive and the population of girls (workers) is dwindling as the queen slows her laying.  They may have to start dipping into their honey stores more than normally for this time of year if they keep flying in the warm weather.

Bee on the cosmos

Bee on the cosmos

I’m not complaining about the weather.  I’ve got arugula and spinach coming up in the garden and we’ve been treated to many bluebird days.  There have been dustings of snow on the mountains which add to the beauty of these days.

Cattle grazing under the snow capped mountains

Cattle grazing under the snow capped mountains

Out of my 7 hives, 5 of them seem to be doing well at last check, despite signs of mites in some of them.  I’m experimenting to see which ones can deal with the mite loads – if any.  If I can get at least a couple through the winter, then I’ll split and requeen the survivors in the spring.  So far, watching the hive entrances, these 5 seem to be doing well.  I reduced the entrances down to keep robbers at bay.

Late autumn shade on BnB1

Late autumn shade on BnB1

Entrance reduced on BnB2

Entrance reduced on BnB2

Down to one entrance on BnB3

Down to one entrance on BnB3

A couple of weeks ago, I checked on Sarah’s hive which had been a real producer of honey and bees this summer.  The last time I checked, 3 weeks before that, all seemed good.  When I walked up to the hive, I noticed that there were very few bees at the entrance – not a good sign.  And, opening it up, I found that they had been devastated by mites.  There was very little brood and there was lots of uncapped, old larvae – classic signs of PMS (that’s parasitic mite syndrome in beekeeping lingo).

PMS in the hive

PMS in the hive

I found the queen and she was laying new eggs, but I didn’t think they have a chance.  I reduced the hive down to just a few frames in hopes they could rebound, but I wasn’t hopeful.

This weekend, I checked on the hive again.  There were no bees guarding the entrance and when I looked through the window I only saw a couple of bees and a yellowjacket.  This hive was toast.  I’ll detail this in another post.

I also checked in on the Left Hand Hive this weekend.  Last time I checked, it was brimming with bees.  I even did a mite roll and there were very few mites so I was optimistic that this hive would survive.  Here’s what it looked like then.

bees

Lots of bees in the bottom box of Left Hand hive

However, yesterday, there were very few bees flying in and out which was not a good sign.  I opened up the top cover and there were a few bees, but not as many as a few weeks ago.  I’m debating whether I should go through the hive and perhaps condense it down to one deep, or just let it bee.  They had the top cover glued to the inner cover and at this time of year, I’m reluctant to break all the propolis seals that they made.  But, we’re still having endless summer weather so perhaps they can still get things sealed back up.  And winter will be here before we know it.

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7 Responses to Endless Summer

  1. Julie says:

    Sorry about Sarah’s hive and Left-hand hive. What a bummer. It’s terrible how quickly a hive can go from boom to bust. 🙁

    Fingers crossed for the remaining 5. Hopefully they all pull through winter, but even if you only have one survivor, you can easily get 3 new colonies from a hive that really booming — especially now that you’re an old hand at splitting. 🙂

    • Don says:

      My goal is to not buy bees next year, but do my increases through splits and swarms. We’ll see if that turns into reality. 😉

      • Julie says:

        LOL! I know — I say that every fall, too, but March is a long way off, and anything can happen between now and then. Still rooting for your girls, though!

  2. HB says:

    Don’t forget about our solar gain. Even when the air feels chilly, the hive will warm enough to goo up the propolis and reset the seal. Giving the bees what they need now is more important (IMO) than preventing a potential draft.

    • Don says:

      Good point, HB. Looks like the weather will hold until the weekend which is the first time I’ll have a chance to get in to take a look.

      • HB says:

        Here it is a month later and the weather’s still holding out (one snow event notwithstanding). How’s Left Hand Hive doing?

        • Don says:

          It’s toast. When I did look in, there was no queen and only a handful of bees. I dismantled the hive and saved all the honey combs for next year. I froze them all to kill off any moth larva and they are stacked in my basement for the winter.

          BnB3 is also toast – no queen, just a couple of confused bees. I’ll probably lose Duncan’s hive also. It still has its queen, but very few bees and no brood. All have classic PMS signs.

          So, I’m hoping the remaining 3 will make it through the winter. They all have plenty of honey and a fair amount of bees/brood. Only time will tell at this point.

          As a side note that you’ll appreciate, all the hives that are surviving so far use the Hardison design. 2 have screened bottoms, 1 not. Don’t know if that has anything to do with it, but I did find it interesting.

          I’ll rethink my management strategy over the winter.

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