Fall Inspections Can Be Rough

DSWelcome from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in central Illinois. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

This lesson will be timely because you might be inspecting your bees or taking off honey and it might be rough! We are harvesting and extracting honey and filling up jars. It’s been a fantastic year for honey production here in central Illinois. Colonies are healthy and strong and golden rod is full of nectar. Hives are smelling funky already. The nectar from golden rod and other asters cause the hive to have a unique and suspicious smell. Some beekeepers fear the smell might be American foulbrood, but rarely can you smell AFB several feet outside of the hive.

Hello everyone, we are David and Sheri Burns and today we want to bring you up to date on what’s going on at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and also share about how a fall inspection can be rough. We’ll give you some pointers on how to make your final fall inspection easier.

We now have had 2 classes on how to get your bees through the winter. These have gone really well. Students have commented on how much they have learned. Remember the price of a class is cheaper than a new package of bees in the spring. So if this class helps your colony survive the winter, you are that much ahead. Our final class on How To Get Your Bees Through The Winter is Saturday Sept. 26. We have 5 spots left. If you cannot attend this class, it’s in an ebook on Amazon and on our website.

Of course our Winter-Bee-Kind is a primary winter survival tool. Check them out.

SheriBack To Work We are glad to have Sheri back in the saddle. She was out for a few weeks having a knee replacement. She’s really recovering well. Several people chipped in and covered for her but no one knows the ends and outs to this operation like Sheri does. Sheri loves to ride her Harley, but after her knee replacement she has decided to give that up.

So, I bought her the  next best thing, a Mustang convertible. She has enjoyed cruising around with the topconvertible down. To me, she looks better in a Mustang than a Harley.  In October we’ll be driving it out to see our Marine son, Seth, as he returns home from his second deployment in Kuwait. 

Sheri used her down time to create a new website/store just for women beekeepers. Check it out: www.beekeepingchicks.com

I’ve been watching my bees work an acre of golden rod and I’ve noticed that very few bees are on it much before 9 or 10 a.m. After 10 a.m. more and more bees begin to work it, gathering nectar and pollen. Last year, my bees were never on golden rod at all. It was very disappointing. I suspect the plant did not receive moisture at the right time and it had little to no nectar yields. But this year, bees are all over it.

Golden RodIt makes sense as it takes the heat of the day to draw out the nectar. All day long the bees are working the golden rod hard.  Also, I’ve notice how much more water the bees are consuming during the end of summer. Not so much because it is hotter, but because they require additional water to add to the honey for using it as food within the colony. If you have never seen golden rod  it is everywhere here in Illinois. Here’s one of my bees working it.

I have mowed a path so I can walk through my acre of golden rod because it will grow over six feet in height. While I was taking pictures of bees on it I saw a very interesting insect. It looked like a long colorful spotted beetle.

Spotted Moth Look what I found! It is the Ailanthus webworm moth. These moths are rare unless there are Ailanthus trees (Tree of Heaven) around. I don’t have any of these trees, but here is Atteva aurea, a member of the Family Yponomeutidae, the ermine moths. It’s really cool looking because when this moth lands it covers its body with its wings. The wings are spotted and resembles ermine fur that royalty uses to line their robes. That’s how this little bug got its name.

This is why beekeeping is fun. You learn so much more about plants, trees and other insects. I remember being in southern Illinois years ago and I walked past a tree that was just buzzing with honey bees and it was the tree of heaven. It is a short tree and very invasive. It’s called a tree of heaven because it grows quickly up to heaven.

Golden rod and other asters can be an excellent source of fall nectar for honey bees. The nectar will make the hive smell funny. The honey tastes different too. Most people leave it on the hive for the bees to use during the winter. Some people harvest it and mix it with clover honey and the taste is muddled.  I personally pull off all my honey supers before golden rod blooms. After that,  if the bees want it, they can have it.

FALL INSPECTIONS CAN BE ROUGH

Okay, let’s be honest. Most hives will behave differently in late summer and fall. Every fall new beekeepers call and ask us why their bees seem more defensive in the fall. Here’s why:

1)  It’s hotter and more humid.

2) There is usually a nectar dearth.

3) Because there is a dearth, more bees are robbing other hives, thus, hives are more protective against being robbed.

4) Your colonies are running at maximum populations. There are no longer 10,000 bees, but close to 60,000!

Here are a few tips on making inspections during late summer or fall.

1) DO NOT LEAVE THE HIVE OPEN VERY LONG

bees in flight I try never to work a colony more than 10 minutes tops during late summer or fall! If you do, most colonies will begin to become more flighty, loud and protective. If you keep a hive open longer than 10 minutes during a dearth, other bees will quickly smell the honey and start landing to rob. Remember that not all the bees you see flying around the opened hive in the fall belongs to that hive. Many can be robber bees which makes your bees more defensive.

2) KEEP BOXES COVERED

If you remove a super or the top deep, other bees will quickly find them and begin robbing. I place a top cover upside down, then I stack my boxes inside the inverted top cover. I take another top cover and place it over the top of those boxes. Now, no bees can fly in or out. You might think it will get hot in those boxes and it will. That’s why you need to inspect fast during this time of the year. You can use a screen bottom board if you want to provide more air, and just close it off. In other words, place the boxes you are removing on to another screen bottom board, but have the entrance closed, then place a top on those boxes while you inspect the final deep. This will greatly cut down on the amount of your own bees flying in the air and protect against robbing.

3) SUIT UP MORE THAN USUAL

Pinksuit Be prepare to take a few more stings. It’s hotter, more humid, limited nectar sources and robber bees are everywhere.Your hive is finally huge in numbers.  In the spring your colony will be nice again, but for late summer and fall, suit up more than usual.

Sheri’s new website has several different colors of bees jackets and suits.

I know it is hot, and suits can be hot, but the better protected you are the more you will enjoy working your bees.

4) KEEP YOUR HIVES COOL AND WATERED

BBFS Our Burns Bees Feeding Systems can be used as a cooling system during a summer dearth too. Here’s what I’m doing this week. It’s in the high 90s each day this week and through next week. I’ve placed these feeding systems on some of my hives but instead of giving them sugar water, I am simply providing water in one of the jars. The other jar hole I am leaving opened as well as the pollen hole. I have a deep hive body surrounding this feeder on top so hot air can rise into this box away from the colony. I also add a small 1/8” wedge under the top cover to help exhaust heat. Plus the water is available on top of the cluster to help the bees cool the hive.

5) A BIT MORE SMOKE THAN USUAL

Smoke will always calm bees and you might need to use a bit more than normal. The funny thing is, in late summer and fall, you will start inspecting your hive and all will seem the same. But, after a few minutes you will see a rise in defensive behavior, something you are not used to seeing in the spring during a nectar flow.

In my new ebook “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” I have a section on what to do during your last hive inspection of the year and when to do it.

If you are a hands of person and you don’t like to read, then come over and take our class, “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter.” We still have spots open for our class on Sept 26. Click here fore more information.

Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend!
David and Sheri Burns

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