In September there are a lot of variables that will set your hive up for the winter. You might be wondering what the end goal is? What will your hive look like? If you’re a first time beekeeper, it can be intimidating not knowing what to look for in your hive before you close it up.
As we have stated in our previous blog, How Do I Prepare My Hive Before Fall?, your hive should be two boxes, weighing approximately 140lbs - 150lbs. The top box should always be honey/syrup. However, what about the bottom box? What should that look like? In the beginning of September you want to see good laying patterns from your queen and capped brood. We recommend that your hive should have 6 to 7 frames of capped brood with the other frames being pollen and honey. Typically the capped brood will be located in the center of the hive, with the other frames located on the outside. This is to keep the brood warm as it may not survive if it gets too cold. You can help your bees by moving frames around to follow this pattern. You can check out our video about it here.
To make sure your hive has the right amount of capped brood the beekeeper needs to make sure that the queen has enough space to lay. Depending on when you start feeding syrup, it can create competition for space. Meaning that the space meant to be used for laying is now being occupied by honey. This doesn’t mean that you should stop feeding the hive, but you may want to monitor how often you’re feeding your colony. Ensuring that the queen gets the space she needs.
It is very important to create a balance between the stores and the amount of capped brood you have. If you have too much of the capped brood, this means you will have too many bees for the winter and not enough food stores. There will be a high likelihood that your bees will not have enough to feed themselves and will either require more food or starve. If there is not enough capped brood, the cluster for the winter will be too small. This means the bees might not have enough bee power to keep warm.
Now it may happen that your colony is quite small already and the amount of capped brood is not enough for the winter. There are two options you can choose from depending on the scenario.
Scenario 1: You have at least 4 or 5 frames of capped brood. If you have another hive that is very strong and the queen is doing an excellent job at laying, you may take a frame of brood from that hive, shake off all the bees, and donate it to your weaker one. This only works for the hive that needs a little bit of help.
Scenario 2: Your hive has almost no capped brood. You may want to consider your second option which is to combine it with another hive. Combining two hives together can alleviate this problem and give you an opportunity to split your hives earlier in the spring.
We hope this information will give you more confidence about your bee colonies going into winter. Make sure to watch our Hiveworld Hands-On sessions to learn even more about beekeeping and overwintering.
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