Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2019
    Location
    Peterborough, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    9

    Question Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    First year beekeeper here. So I've stripped my supers and reduced my hives down to one broad box in anticipation of getting it ready for winter. I've been feeding my bees 2:1 sugar water and have about 2.5 gallons into each hive so far. I have a ton of bees in my hives to the point I'm fearful of swarming. I knew what to look for throughout the season during my hive inspections, but now that I'm getting ready for winter, I'm not sure what to look for during my remaining hive inspections. What should I hope to see when I inspect? Is there an optimum layout in the hive that I'd like to see? What should the frame layout be?

    I'd appreciate any tips as I close out my season.

    Rob

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Nacogdoches, TX, USA
    Posts
    161

    Default

    You will likely notice a decrease in brood production. This is normal. You’ll want to have the appropriate amount of honey stores going into winter. We usually have some goldenrod nectar flow going into October, so that is what I typically rely on for winter stores. If that doesn’t pan out, then I feed. I can’t check your location on my phone, so I’m not sure what kind of fall flows you might have. Good local knowledge can help in that regard. You will also want to assess whether or not you treat for mites. Again, depending on your location, they may or may not be a problem. Here in East Texas they can greatly affect the success of a colony so I treat for them. Like I said, local knowledge is key when assessing a hive going into the fall.

    Ryan

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Spokane, Washington, USA
    Posts
    193

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    What is your planned winter configuration? The reason i ask is you said they are now in "one brood box," I hope you mean there is another box of stores on top of that? I would guess you need either 2 deeps, 3 mediums, or a deep and 2 mediums.

    Feeding time is almost over. If you are not up to your winter weight (stores), you are going to have to start feeding more aggressively. For example, I have a hive that is a deep with 2 mediums on top, and the top box currently has 2 feeders in it, for a total of 2 gallons. I am refilling that every 3 days, so that one hive is taking 4 gallons a week of 2:1.

    Don't worry about swarming, that season is over.

    Configuration - if I were manipulating a hive, I would configure the bottom like this (H=honey, P= pollen, B=brood) HPBBBBBBPH. If there is more than 2 pollens, put them on the bottom outside. Everything above the bottom box should be honey.

    That said, I quit inspecting generally come September, so none of the above matters. Before then I aim to configure as above, after then I just feed and let the bees configure it how they want.

    Re inspections this time of year - I think there is little to see, and little that can be done. So I don't inspect. The goals are control of mites, and adequate stores, both of which can be done without much hive disruption.

    So my suggestion is one more inspection at the most, to put things the way you think they should be. Then feed feed feed, and let the bees reconfigure as they wish, without your interference. Oh, and kill the mtes, relentlessly.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    Northeast PA
    Posts
    247

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    Quote Originally Posted by bushpilot View Post
    Don't worry about swarming, that season is over.
    \
    Can someone else confirm this is true? If bees are fed heavily in the fall, during a nectar flow - is it guaranteed that they still will not swarm?

  6. #5

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    If I understand you correctly, I would say put a second deep on top of the first, with drawn comb if you have it. If not, (and if you have supers with drawn comb) use the supers. That will give your bees space to hang out. Pretty hard to get bees to draw comb this time of year. While I think you could overwinter a small colony in a single deep, if you have a lot of bees they probably need more space. A large colony of bees needs a surprising amount of food to make it through the winter. A good resource is:
    https://beesource.com/resources/usda...-bee-colonies/
    Note that people often overwinter with fewer stores, especially if their winter is short, their colonies are relatively small, or they have relatively frugal bees (Russians or Carniolans)
    If you ask the question "What overwintering configuration do you use?" of 10 beekeepers, you will get 11 answers.
    Personally, being a novice, I tend to err on the side of giving them more food than they need.
    By the way, I suspect it isn't the length of the winter, so much as the amount of time the bees spend with the temperature near or above freezing with no nectar available.
    The one year I kept records of hive weights, I saw the bees used the most of their stores in October and November, and March, when it is only slightly cold in southern Wisconsin, and very little in December and January, when the daytime high is about -7C.
    If you can find a successful beekeeper near where you are, and copy what he does, you should have something better than a 50/50 chance of making it through the winter with your bees.
    And finally, don't put too much stock in this post, as it is just the musings of a novice.

  7. #6

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    With bees, nothing is absolute. I looked in the forum, and found several mentions of swarms as late as mid September as far north a central Wisconsin.

    If the bees are overcrowded, and especially there is a nectar flow on, they might swarm. Or so it appears. But if you have time, check for yourself. It looks to me like it isn't common.

    You are about due east of central Wisconsin, but probably have a more moderate climate due to the effect of the great lakes.

  8. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Location
    Warren County, NJ, USA
    Posts
    533

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    Quote Originally Posted by username00101 View Post
    Can someone else confirm this is true? If bees are fed heavily in the fall, during a nectar flow - is it guaranteed that they still will not swarm?
    you are looking for a guarantee in beekeeping?!?
    i bet our southern friends would argue that swarms wont emit this time of year.
    what if bees swarm now due to high mite loads or unfavorable housing conditions?

  9. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2016
    Location
    Almond, NY, USA
    Posts
    136

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    Quote Originally Posted by username00101 View Post
    Can someone else confirm this is true? If bees are fed heavily in the fall, during a nectar flow - is it guaranteed that they still will not swarm?
    A fellow local beekeeper had two swarms leave his hives on Saturday 9/14/19. They ran out of room because available cells were plugged with fresh nectar.
    Zone 5A 2,200 ft.

  10. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Location
    Northern Colorado, USA
    Posts
    553

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    Being in Canada you definitely need a minimum of 2 deep boxes on your hive. If you have it 2 deeps and a medium this is a better option. The bees and brood nest should be in the bottom and all of the honey stores in the second (and 3rd) boxes above the cluster. The bees eat their way up during the winter and will rarely eat downward. In general you want a minimum of 60-80 lbs (28-35 kg) of honey on your hive going into winter. If you do not have this much you need to start feeding ASAP.

  11. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Location
    Sisters, Oregon
    Posts
    88

    Default Re: Fall hive inspections - what should I be looking for?

    One brood box can be done. Ian Steppler winters singles indoors in Miami Manitoba and the University of Guelph manages in singles outdoors with a few double nucs indoors. Ian likes to see 90-95 pounds of feed on his singles and knocks down mites hard again in mid October with OAV. Ian is feeding heavily right now. His channel is A Canadian Beekeepers Blog. He is doing another full year series. Highly recommended.

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