Beekeeping in October is a much quieter affair then in previous months. By now the bees have been treated for varroa mite and have been fed adequately so that there are enough stores to last them through winter. The beekeeper’s final jobs for autumn are to make sure the hives are weather proof and braced against the winter winds, to secure the entrances with mouse guards and to put on some protection against woodpeckers. A woodpecker can make very short work in hammering a hole in the side of a hive to get to the delicacies within. A cloak of chicken wire usually does the job.
The number of bees within the hive is also reducing. The male bees “drones” have served their purpose. They are now a drain on resources so they have to go. The worker bees drag the drones out of the hive and deny them re-entry. Sadly the drones will not survive. Any worker bees born in autumn will take the colony through the winter. They have a much longer life span than the summer bees as they will not be foraging. The queen’s rate of egg laying is now also vastly reduced.
The cold is not too much of a problem in the coming months as the bees will cluster for warmth, taking it in turns to rotate their position in the cluster. A bee on the outside of the cluster will eventually end up in the centre where it is warmer and vice versa. They will agitate their wing muscles to increase the temperature. However, damp and moisture within the hive is not good and adequate ventilation is essential.
Apart from the weekly checks when the hives are “hefted” to check there is enough food, the beekeeper can now relax. We have done our best to keep the bees alive and thriving. Everything will now be crossed in the hope that the colonies survive the winter, that the queen stays healthy and that all will be well come spring.