Fall is definitely in the air! The leaves are changing color and the nights and days are much cooler lately.
At the hives, we're starting to see alot of drones being evicted. As sad as it is, the drones have very little purpose over the winter months. Their one objective in life is to mate with the queen to carry on the productivity of a hive however, with the onset of winter, the hive is careful in how it uses its resources. Sadly, the drones must go.
To build resources, we've been feeding 2:1 sugar syrup to ensure they have enough before the winter sets in. Splits were very active in foraging and building up their own stores but some seem a little on the light side ( less than 70 lbs) so we have been feeding continuously over the last couple of weeks. Some folks use the wooden hive top feeders - which hold quite a bit of syrup but we found that the wood would warp over time and they started to leak. Others use the plastic feeder pails - that are inserted on over the top of the inner cover or the frame feeders which sit inside the hive with the other frames. For us, we have settled on the inverted spaghetti sauce jars. While it is not the most efficient means of feeding (especially when you have many hives) it has been working for us quite well. We normally put two to three jars in each hive and replace as necessary. They are easy to read - just lift the cover and take a peak - without much disturbance to the bees. They are also very easy to handle and are easy to get - which is a bonus!!!
To provide additional insulation and conserve heat- we've been using foil bubble wrap. We position the hives side by side to support each other and then wrap them - ensuring the the front, south facing entrance remains open to ensure ventilation.
We also use hardware cloth to keep out unwanted visitors. Entrances are covered with 1/2" hardware cloth or other guard devices to keep mice out. While they may be cute to look at, mice can destroy your hive. The honey acts as a great energy booster and the bees themselves are a wonderful protein supplement. During the summer months, mice are not so much of an issue as there is plenty of feed resources available to them but as winter approaches, the mouse guard cannot be forgotten.
We often get asked what the bees do during the winter months - the bees will form a tight ball around the queen and will vibrate their wings to generate heat. This cluster will remain intact throughout the winter with the outer bees trading positions with the bees closer to the inside to ensure consistent heat throughout the population. Throughout the season, the queen will be protected from the colder temperatures. While she stops laying during this time, she continues to be catered to by her workers. By March/ April, egg laying will begin again for the new foragers when the snow melts.