Are you ready for overwintering?

September 25, 2020

fall hive management and honey bees

Fall hive management is important, and there are a lot of things to remember. Hive health and weight is key for prepping for overwintering, but unfortunately it doesn’t always guarantee a hive’s survival. Here are a couple fall management reminders:

  • Check for a good brood pattern to ensure you have a healthy queen in early September. If you need to requeen, you will still have time.
  • Check your hive’s weight with scale or digital scale.
  • Feed 2:1 (sugar:water) until your bees won’t take anymore and/or it gets too cold. You should use a pail feeder that goes on the outside of the hive.
  • Check your mite load and treat if you have any mites. It is important to go into winter with no mites. If you have mites they will feed on your new brood, and you need those new bees for overwintering. Treat your mites!
  • Make sure your mouse guard and entrance reducers are on in September. Time to keep critters out and help your bees protect their hive.
  • Plan to wrap your hive around Thanksgiving weekend (weather pending). If you do it too early, the bees will consume more food and energy to cool the hive. Better to use that energy to create stores while they still can.

What fall feeding is all about.

There are a couple reasons we do fall feeding- especially in Alberta with our cold winters. A two box Langstronth hive needs to be approximately 150 lbs to overwinter. Reason being, you need enough bees to form a sizeable cluster and stores to make it through the winter. If your hive isn’t up to weight, you need to feed them to help them get enough stores.

Syrup feeding for the fall is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water or 2:1

  1. Measure 2:1 (sugar:water) in terms of weight. So for 2:1, you will need 16.6 lbs of sugar to a gallon of water
  2. Use hot or warm water to dissolve the sugar. It can be a tedious task to get it to mix well as it is a thicker syrup. The better your sugar is dissolved, the better the syrup is for the bees. It will also be less work for the bees to dehydrate the honey.
  3. It needs to be 14 degrees C for the bees to want to take syrup. Weather really determines the feeding window beekeepers have in the fall. So far we have had good feeding weather in Alberta.
  4. Pail feeder should be used on the outside of hive. Not recommended to use an inside feeder as it occupies too much space that the bees can use to create more stores for overwintering.


Pollen patties, sugar syrup & medicated syrup

Pollen patties provide protein for the bees. It is also a source of vitamins, fats and minerals. Bees use pollen to feed the brood they are rearing to become the colony that overwinters in the hive. It is also stored in the comb around the honey and brood nest to provide a source of pollen for spring when they begin to rear brood again.

Dry pollen can be fed to bees if your are short on time and need to increase the weight of your hive. Tip: mix equal parts of dry pollen and icing sugar and place directly on the bee cluster so that it is eaten quickly. Watch here where we show you at 8:30.

Sugar syrup is used to provide carbohydrates to the bees and is a supplement for the lack of nectar sources in the fall. It is used for bees to feed on and store in the hive. They will use these stores in the winter months to feed on. We also recommend adding Honey-B-Healthy to your syrup (we put about 2 TBSPs in our pail feeder). It stimulates feeding in your hive with natural ingredients inlcuding: Sucrose, Water, Spearmint Oil, Lemongrass Oil, and Lecithin. Make sure to check your syrup to ensure it doesn’t go moldy.

Medicated Syrup with Fumigilan-B. If you need to treat your bees for Nosema, there is an easy way to do it with your syrup. Simply add the Fumigilan-B to the syrup mixture at your last feed. In our last Meet The Beekeeper, we showed you how to add it to a plastic bag, and place it on the inner cover hole (watch our video at 24:50). The bees will take it directly from the bag. If it is your last feed, it will also promote having the bees take the medication in to their gut instead of storing it immediately. It is recommended that you change your mite treatment every year so that it is more effective.

If your bees are still underweight, you many need to amalgamate a weaker hive with a stronger hive to overwinter. You may also consider feeding fondant bee candy over the hole of the inner cover and adding more over the winter months.

More feeding tips.

Join us for a few more Meet The Beekeepers live-streamed on Mondays, and shop for supplies online.


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