Fall housekeeping

The leaves are starting got turn and both us and the bees are getting ready for winter. After our last inspection and the high-ish mite count, we decided to treat the bees with thymol for the mites. Thymol is the extract that is in the herb thyme, so the hive has a sort of sweet and savory smell now. The thymol comes as gel on a little tray. The bees don’t like the smell so they pick it up bit by bit and kick It out, in the process removing mites. Rob will have to give you a science follow up to this post as I don’t really understand how it works. I do know that thymol is a more natural substance to use in the mite battle which made me happy. I don’t like having to medicate bees, but until we’ve got the basics down, and possibly even when we do, it’s a bit of a death wish to not treat for mites. Most beekeepers use Apistan, which is a sort of pesticide. Thymol splits the difference between pesticides and bees overcome with mites. We put the first tray in on Sept 21 st, and the second treatment in yesterday. They get two trays as their full course of fall mite treatment.

Speaking of courses, we’ve been doing some ourselves. We attended an excellent talk at the Common Ground Fair given by Swan’s bees on getting ready for winter. It was great to get a review of Fall stuff, and while most of it we were aware of we definitely picked up some good pointers. I knew we would need to feed the bees again to make sure they got their honey supplies up for winter, but I didn’t want to feed them when there was still goldenrod blooming on the grounds that no bee would trek for goldenrod if they had a nice syrup feeder on their hive. After all, if you had unlimited pizza delivery would you bother with the store? Turns out there is an important difference between a honey flow and a few goldenrod in your backyard. Bees need a LOT of nectar and our advisor at the Common Ground fair suggested we feed anyways. We put the heavy 2-1 sugar syrup on a day or two later. Good thing we did because it rained for several days and then froze now everything is dead. The bees had about 60% of what they need for a Maine winter, but now they have the syrup to get them through. I think they already knew what was coming though because they had been filling their frames and ignoring the honey super for a couple weeks. While we started with just 2-1 sugar syrup we have since added more syrup and Fumagillian, which is the medication to treat noseema. Noseema is basically bee diarrhea, and if you were going to be cooped up in a hive all winter you sure wouldn’t want that.

We have two things left on our Fall checklist, we need to put the entrance reducer on to make sure nothing shows up to rob the bees of their honey, and we need to wrap the hive in tyvek and possibly insulation for the winter. At first we had heard that just a tyvek wrap was enough, but our new lecture suggested adding foam insulation to hives that are weaker. Frankly a bit of insulation makes sense to me. The bees need their inner nest at 96 degrees all winter to raise baby bees, and that’s a lot of buzzing in a poorly insulated hive, so hopefully we can find some scrap insulation to help ’em out.

Next up, our bees enter their honey in the Sandwich Fair (with a little help from the Beekeepers)!