Harvest & Winter Prep

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Drone Bee
Nov 9, 2008
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Last year a fair few of us took off the honey early August, then on went the Apiguard, plus the feeding had been done during September. we then realised we were way too early, particularly as there was a good ivy flow allowing the bees a more natural source to fill the larder with.

What are your plans for this year ? is anyone leaving the harvest till the beginning of sept ? will that still leave enough time to treat for varroa and give a good feed ?.
September sounds a bit late to me. Last year i harvested in mid August, this year i took a load off 2nd week in july all capped.
As the weather has been crap so far I'm not holding out much hope for there being much more flow and I'm going to put on the Apiguard mid August.
If there is an ivy flow they can have that for there brood chamber.
I always take a crop late Aug/early Sept & do my autumn varroa treatment in Sept, but we do have a very long season in West Cornwall & brood rearing continues through the winter.

We are removing our supers next week and giving them a feed then we will go from there for wintering at the moment they useing a fair bit of honey and as you all know sugar is cheaper than honey.
, particularly as there was a good ivy flow allowing the bees a more natural source to fill the larder with.

I thought Ivy crystalized hard in the cells, which in a long cold spell would be difficult for the bees to mobilize and they could starve despite being surrounded by food...........
I think it would be a false economy to assume there is going to be ivy nectar rather than feed the necessary syrup. Sugar is cheap enough.

They take pollen but they mainly take nectar and the honey sets hard and is not good for winter feed. If you remove and store it safely it makes good feed for nucs the following summer.
Bees can starve right beside solidified ivy stores.
Last year I extracted 40lbs and it had set like concrete within hours.
Curiously, some I checked a couple of weeks back had softened to the consistency of fondant.
Perhaps i should have worded my post better, i took the honey off last august, and then proceeded to give them plenty of syrup feed to build up the stores, i always give them plenty, what i was saying was that because of the mild weather continuing right thru to October a lot of us fed too early, if they fill the brood box up too much then the queen does not have much room to keep a good level of bees to take through the winter, too much feed can be as bad as not enough.

In Hampshire i think i could possibly get away with feeding them at the end of sept, beginning of oct.
Have had it suggested to me that if you feed now /before the ivy and then the ivy comes in strongly this could cause colony build up and swarming in September and so better not to feed until the ivy flow has been determined. Thoughts anyone? Rosti
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I think its a wee bit early to start feeding, there are many reports of swarms in September and I think that could be caused by overcrowding due to excess early feeding. I usually find that feeding in September to finish first week of Oct to be enough
Why not to plan too rigidly in advance.

A june swarm (not a huge one, by any means), with no feed at the time slowly built up over last summer. No honey harvested from it. It continued to build right through to November when stores and brood (a lot) were filling all their 14 x 12 frames. I thought she might just continue to lay, and lay and lay.... They were still stuffing in extra stores, even then. The main problem was clearing stores for brood space this spring - as winter only lasted about 2 months! In the end she was laying upstairs as well.

Point is you need to be considering all the 'on-the-ground' factors like the location (Scotland or Southern England, urban or arable farmland, etc), the weather (night temperatures are important as well), what is happening with your garden plants, strength and health of the colony, hive size, etc, and not sticking rigidly to hard and fast rules.

If you get it wrong you can always resort to candy/fondant after Christmas. Most only have a relatively few colonies to look after and winter bee jobs are in short supply (if you have 'sorted' early for the next season) at this time anyway.

If in the back garden, even better for keeping an eye on them.

The big boys, 100 hives or more, cannot give each hive exquisite individual attention at this time (warm daylight hours are in short supply) so it's 'belts and braces' get the job done as planned, before dispensing with the part-time seasonal labour.

By all means, be ready. But take note of what the bees are doing. Seasons are changing wildly of late. Maybe not 'Global Warming', just 'Climate Change'. Whatever it is the bees generally cope.

Those with one hive and little experience will worry. They can not unite colonies, for example.

Those with ten hives and twenty years experience will say feed in September/October but will cheerfully alter the timing by 3 weeks as necessary, unite weaker colonies, add saved frames of stores, have a couple of over-wintering nucs as back-up, etc.

This is where your local association assistance is worth far more than an international forum. They have that experience. End of sermon.

Regards, RAB
This is where your local association assistance is worth far more than an international forum. They have that experience. End of sermon.

Regards, RAB

I have always found wth my local BBKA group that they always sing from the same hymn sheet having read the same books.

It is like the chairperson or secretary gives advice and like lemons they all agree.

Not a lot if free thinking is allowed in my local group,your's may be an excepton rather than the norm ?

I would rather come on here ask a question,get 4 answers and work it out for myself than trust my local group to give me the correct answer's.

Your local beekeepers have a few years experience between them,on here we have thousands of years combined.

Only one person know's the right time to feed YOUR bee's and thats you.
I called it wrong last year with a massive Ivy flow,what did other local beek's do ? I have no idea as I dont ask them.
In finland now fireweed is finishing, heather and red clover is in full bloom.

now i arrange brood and pollen frames so that bees have a good space to rear winter bees and i get the last honey away.
In first week of september i take all the last honey away and feed hives with 63% syrup average 20 kg sugar a hive.
my local BBKA group that they always sing from the same hymn sheet


Inclined to agree with you but that is why one should ask the question and follow up with 'why?' after the answer. If that argument is acceptable it is then your choice if you follow the advice or not. You will then have experience in that area.

Ask too far in advance and they will only be able to tell you what they did last year, or tell you that is what they always do. You should be able to easily locate a practical beekeeper who looks at the prevailing conditions and says it like it is.

You don't want a beefarmer, necessarily, and you don't need inexperience or the 'classical book' follower. Above all, you need to be talking to them on a very regular basis and analyse the mistakes as well as accepting the good decisions until you gain that 'all needed' experience.

I recall the story of three deer shooters out together. Short version is: one missed a stag by a metre to the left, the next missed by one metre to the right. The third shooter, a statistician then jumped up and down saying 'we got him, we got him!

Bare statistics are correct on average (or the results used/selected!), but not necesarily true for the case in hand.

Regards, RAB
In finland winter feeding is so simple. Just one alternative. No classical books or group thinking. you just fill the hives with syrup. to get a good colony for winter, that needs more.

Of course every beekeeper has his own secret weapon, but the result is the same.

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