Winter is coming...
With summer behind us, the days are gradually getting shorter, and with the change in season so too do we change over to another page in the beekeeping calendar.
This is the time that beekeepers begin their preparations to ensure their colony not only survives, but also thrives into spring.
Although temperatures may remain warm in some areas, it’s time to start considering which overwintering practices you will choose for your colony.
What’s going on in my area?
Finding out what’s in bloom, and what’s going to be available for your bees during this time of year is essential. A great aspect of being a beekeeper is that you learn more about your local flora – and become more in tune with nature’s rhythms.
In some areas there will still be nectar available throughout the autumn. You might even get some unique honey flavours you haven’t tasted before.
Plan on expanding next year?
If you’re thinking of getting another hive next year, now is a good time to start thinking about what you need. Perhaps you’ll split your existing hive, or sign up to get a nuc or package from your local club or bee supplier.
Having more than one hive is a great way to learn more quickly, as you can compare and contrast what’s going on with different colonies.
With less time spent in the apiary in winter, you’ll have time to start thinking about what type of hive you’d like for next season and where to put it. You can even get it assembled and painted in plenty of time for spring!
How Flow Hives add value to apiaries
Using Flow's harvesting technology, Stella and John have added value by producing specialty sweet and red clover honey.
The unique and local flavour of single-frame harvesting has expanded their market to people who look for honey like they do for wine and cheese—flavour and the story behind it.
Autumn Beekeeping Preparations
How do I prepare for the cold?
In some places, there won’t be any forage available during winter (or the conditions might not be right for your bees to forage), so it’s very important to ensure your colony has enough resources and to prepare your hive, especially if you live in a cold climate. The steps you need to take will depend on local conditions.
It's a good idea to connect with local beekeepers to understand specific overwintering practices for your area. Or put your questions to our Community Forum to engage with beekeepers around the world and get a range of advice.
What do I need to check?
How well a colony will survive through winter depends largely upon:
- - The number of bees
- - The colony's health and condition
- - The resources available inside the hive
- - How well the hive is equipped to deal with the cold weather (ie: ventilation, insulation, etc).
Are your bees getting fatter?
Before winter, it’s important to do a brood inspection and count, and to have a look at the queen’s laying pattern.
Towards the end of the summer, the colony will stop producing foraging bees, and will instead produce fat winter bees. These live longer than foragers, and their larger bodies help to generate heat, and to insulate the brood and the queen throughout the winter months.
Watching your bees come and go can be one of the most rewarding parts of beekeeping! Can you notice the different activity levels compared to spring and summer?
Watch out for pests
While the air is still warm, conduct inspections and treat for any pests and disease, so your colony is in optimal health, before being packed down and tucked in overwinter.
Do the bees have enough food?
It’s important to check honey stores to assess whether you might need to feed your hive coming into, or during winter. How much they need will depend on the length and severity of winter in your area.
Check out Cedar’s homemade feeders
Do I need to reduce the size of my hive?
The more space in the hive, the harder the bees will have to work to keep the hive warm. Lots of beekeepers will remove their super in autumn. The brood boxes should contain plenty of honey.
During winter, the bees will form a cluster at the bottom of the hive to retain warmth, and gradually work their way upwards to make the most of their resources.
If you leave your super on over winter, you should remove the queen excluder to ensure the queen doesn’t get separated from the rest of the colony.
Having the right amount of ventilation and insulation is also vital. There should not be any ventilation at the top of the hive (eg: an open top entrance).
Watch Fred Dunn talk about winter tips for Flow Hives
Sugar shake your bees
During autumn beekeepers are encouraged to inspect their hives for exotic pests like varroa mite, Braula fly, and Tropilaelaps mite.
Exotic bee pests are not present in Australia but have the capacity to devastate our honey bee industry if allowed to establish.
The best way to inspect for varroa and other exotic mites is to carry out a sugar shake test. During autumn, sugar shake your bees and the let the NSW DPI know the results of your test.
Need extra help?
There’s always more to learn as a beekeeper!
So, in conjunction with the world's experts, we’ve created TheBeekeeper.org
It lets you fast-track your learning easily and enjoyably. Learn in your own time with high-quality videos explaining what you need to know in order to feel confident looking after your bees.
With specific lessons on the beekeeping season, winter preparations and pest control, get a beekeeping education straight from the specialists! There are also live Q & A sessions to clear up any queries!
Share with a friend
If it’s not too late in the season where you are, help a newbee set up a hive or split your colony with a friend! It’s a great way to speed up your beekeeping knowledge.
Our Refer-A-Friend program allows your friend to receive $50 off their first hive, and you receive a sweet $50 reward.
If you don’t have a beekeeping buddy, consider linking up with someone local on the Flow Community Forum.