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Beehives in Autumn

Two hives near the vegetable garden 

My nine year old son decided to title this post.  You see, I had a heck of a time with the bees yesterday!  It had been a while since I had entered my hives as I was just letting the bees do "their thing".   During the summer they forage and work hard, but come fall, it's time to do an inspection and see that their summer has paid off and also to help them where they need it to survive the Winter.  

Mission One:  Inspect the honey supers  

Hive Diagram 

Earlier in the summer, I had placed a honey super on each hive.  It was unclear whether I would get honey for myself, as they had a great deal of work just drawing out the foundation.  One hive was slow to draw out the foundation, while the other went like gang busters.  I had to place a second deep on that hive.  Yesterday, when I inspected them, all three had fully drawn out foundation.  One was half full of honey, it would remain in place, and the other two honey supers needed to come off.  Well, here was the beginning of a not so good time.  Each hive had a honey super that had to come off and they were full of bees.  I used the bee brush to "gently" coax them into the other deep super.  Apparently, they HATE the bee brush.  Before I knew it they were buzzing my face, hitting my veil and stinging my gloved hands.  They hated me!  Cool, calm and collected, I walked away.  I returned to remove one frame at a time from the honey supers, all twenty of them, and placed them in the garage. Note to self:  Do not place freshly removed honey supers in the garage.  They still smell like the bees, their queen and their hive pheromones.  Confused bees will soon fill your garage even if there is no honey in the supers. Leave the supers off the hive, near the hive for a few days for the scent to dissipate.

Mission Two:  Check the honey supplies in the top deep supers 

After the ordeal of removing the honey supers, I was a bit hesitant to go into the hives deeper, but it needed to be done.  I checked on Briar, the hive closest to the house, first.  Everything was glued like Fort Knox with propolis, the bee's glue.  I used the hive tool to help lift out the first frame.  The top bar pulled right off leaving the frame down below.  Oh goodness, this was not looking good.  I quickly went to the garage and built a new frame and filled it with new foundation.  I skillfully removed the broken frame and beautiful wax from the hive and replaced it with the new frame.  That was a feat!  I inspected the remainder of the hive and found beautiful abundant honey!  The deep super was heavy and full!  Everything looked great.  As the bees were irritated with me, I placed a feeder full of 2:1 sugar syrup on the hive and closed it shut.  I was satisfied for the time being.

Next I went to open up Willow.  Willow was already defensive as it still had a half full honey super on top.  The hive smelled like sweaty gym sock.  Pyew!  They were obviously harvesting the golden rod pollen.  I did not make it very far.  They were already buzzing me and I was spent.  Then I saw a little beetle about the size of an eraser scurry by very quickly.  This hive had small hive beetles.  Oh boy!  I closed it up and knew that I needed to set some traps as they could kill off my bees.  This could wait until tomorrow.

Mission Three:  Trap those Beetles 

I love having a very supportive bee keepers association here on Cape Cod.  I am very lucky. Today, I picked up the traps and baited them with some cooking oil and apple cider vinegar.  The bees will chase the beetles into the traps and they will drown in the oil, but first I had to place two of them in the hive.  I suited up and headed over to Willow with the traps.  I removed the outer cover, the inner cover, the honey super and revealed the upper deep super.  On each side between the outermost two frames I had to insert the traps.  With the hive tool, I had to remove some comb.  It oozed with white nectar.  Being on edge, the bees were not happy about these additions to their home.  They whacked into my veil again and told me to "buzz off".  I wondered if everyone was having bees that were this irritable.  My guess was that they probably did. The bees are busy protecting their honey supplies from other robbing honey bees, yellow jackets, wasps and even bumble bees.

Mission Four:  Inspect for Robbing 

Since placing the feeder on Briar, I had noticed that there was a bunch of activity by the small bee sized entrance hole of the inner cover that lead to the sugar syrup pail inside the hive.  So as I was suited up I watched.  Yes indeed, there were imposter honey bees trying to get inside.  As I watched, I could see five or six bees ganging up on one bee trying to remove them from the entrance.  The guards were doing their job, but the question was, how many robbers were here?  I took a stick from the ground and plugged up the hole.  The hive's bees could still reach the feeder from inside the hive, I just eliminated this shortcut.  Next I went into the garage and retrieved the entrance reducers.  These decrease the size of the entrance and make the guard bees' jobs easier.  I removed the wire mouse guards and inserted the entrance reducers.  Once again, I managed to really upset both hives.  Bees were buzzing everywhere and crawling all over me.  I stood up and stepped back and watched.  I took some deep breaths.  Commotion and confusion was getting sorted out and the "new" entrances were being discovered.  I was done for today and went inside to cook some dinner.  After dinner, I took a peek near the hives.  All was calm.

The honey super can remain on top of the hive here in the Northeast for about another 2 weeks. I am optimistic that I might have some honey, as the golden rod is in full swing here.  In two weeks, I will remove this honey super, restore the mouse guards, vent the outer cover and add a syrup feeder to Willow.  This will take me up to the first frost.  After that, more winter preparation will begin.  Did I mention that I still enjoying keeping these bees?  Yes, all 100,000 of them.

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