By late summer, most colonies:
- have produced a honey crop and stored much of their winter reserves
- bee populations have decreased
- and a new kind of bee is being reared, the winter bee
For a colony to overwinter and prosper next spring, the winter bee must be as healthy and long lived as possible. Now it’s important too:
- assure proper colony nutrition
- access winter stores
- feed when necessary
- consolidate the broodnest
- minimize pests
- eliminate colony stress
Late summer is a beekeeper’s last chance to effectively correct problems and make up for any deficiencies. There is still plenty:
- of motivated bees
- some foraging resources
- and enough time to make substantial changes
Just think vitellogenin and lots of it. Without adequate nutrition, it’s impossible for the last few late summer brood cycles to produce a fat or vitellogenin filled, overwintering bee population. It’s important that these bees are:
- well nourished
- stress free
How to spot a late summer nutritional deficiency? Open drone brood should still be visible in late summer. If not, there’s probably a nutritional shortage. Any deficiency must be alleviated by providing both nectar and pollen.
Pollen is as important now as it was in spring. Without proper nutrition, the bees lack the longevity, immune response, and the fat bodies necessary to endure and expand the colony next spring.
Sometimes bees must be moved to find sufficient late summer forage. It’s the best choice if a variety of natural pollen sources are available at another location. Nectar can be replaced with sugar syrup.
But if that’s not possible, pollen supplements can augment, but not replace natural pollen.
Winter stores can be determined by weighing a tbh. A good approximation of the total hive weight can be obtained by weighing each end and adding the amounts together.
But how much weight is enough? Check with local beekeepers to determine how much winter stores are needed. And feed if when a tbh has less than that.
Experience is the best guide. Leave more than enough feed and watch what the bees use. Then, after several seasons worth of data, hefting a tbh will be all that’s required to access winter stores.
When feeding is necessary, feed early. Let the aging, mid-summer workforce process and store it. Once the bees hunker down for winter, they won’t process much. And waiting until fall could be too late.
Need to feed? Here’s some thoughts on my Feeding page.
A natural broodnest has a structure that can get out of wack when comb is rotated, replaced or harvested. Now is the time to get the broodnest back into as natural a configuration as possible.
What’s a natural broodnest look like? Check out my Nest Structure page for some ideas.
Natural hives need treatment! Yes, sometimes they do. Running hives naturally doesn’t guarantee a hive will be pest free and survive. A wise beekeeper monitors their hives and then determines if and when to treat.
When a natural hive needs treatment, don’t contaminate it with pesticides. Many non-contaminating options are available:
- oxalic acid is my favorite
- powdered sugar is more labor intensive
- other non-contaminating solutions like Sucrocide, formic, etc. are also available
There’s no reason to expose the bees, or the beekeeper, to additional pesticides.
It’s important to give late summer bees time to settle in. They need to become familiar with the broonest and hunker down. So, when a colony is in optimum condition and has hunkered down, it’s best to stay out of it.