October is one of those crazy months where it’s warm one day and you’re getting frostbite the next—especially if you live in the Midwest near Beepods HQ. Because of these crazy and unpredictable weather patterns, October is a crucial month for your bees. They are working their little wings off to prep for the impending cold but they don’t have to do it alone. In this blog, we have compiled a list of what activities your bees might be up to, how to provide bees with extra shelter, and what pests to watch out for so your hive can survive and thrive through the winter ahead.
Now that there are fewer sources of forage, your bees will be working on sealing up the hive with propolis to keep the heat in. This doesn’t mean that bees no longer need food. They still need to head into winter with enough honey stores, and they need enough energy to keep prepping the hive for winter. Here’s how you can help.
Sugar water is a great source of food for bees. To make your own, this is what you’ll need:
Since this is fall the sugar recipe calls for two parts sugar and one part water. So if you used two cups of sugar you would then use one cup of water.
Bring your one part water to a boil in a pan. Once it’s boiling remove the pan from the stove and stir in the sugar until fully dissolved and let cool. *It’s important you remove the pan from the stove to prevent toxic compounds building up.
Vualá! You have your sugar syrup. It’s that simple! Follow these easy instructions for supplemental feeding and help your bees in times of need.
While your bees are happily slurping some sugar syrup you may begin to notice your worker bees kicking out drones.
Drones serve only one real purpose. Mate to create more bees. As the colony begins its winterizing process there is no need for more bees, therefore drones get the boot. If worker bees didn’t do this, there wouldn’t be enough honey stores for the colony to survive the winter.
Some beekeepers choose to not wrap their hives. However, we find there are a lot of benefits to adding an extra layer of protection to your Beepod. By mid-October, the weather in the Midwest typically remains at a constant cool temperature, usually about 40 degrees. Once it gets to this point, we recommend wrapping your Beepod with the Beerito. If you need help winterizing your hive you can learn all about it by joining Beepods Lab! Follow along with the Winterizing Your Hive video or download the step by step instructions on how to prep your hive for winter! Don’t forget, you can get the full winterizing kit here.
A major benefit of the Beerito, other than it’s fun to say, is that it helps keep the hive walls warmer. This way the bees don’t have to work as hard to keep the hive 95°F. They won’t burn through as much honey, and they won’t be producing as much moisture!
This leads us to another thing to keep in mind. Your Beepod comes with a vent board at the bottom and smaller vents at the top. Make sure they are clear and open, but also guarded with the mouse and pest guards (more on that below). These vents help prevent moisture that can build up when your bees are trying to keep warm. Excess moisture can cause mold and fungus to grow, making your bees sick. It can also drip on your bees causing them to freeze. And we don’t want that!
Mice—Nobody wants pests in their homes, especially your bees. Fall and winter are usually when mice try to invade your hive. They are typically looking to steal your bees’ honey and bunker down in a warm spot. October is the essential time to install your hive’s mouse guards. Unfortunately, mice aren’t the only pest that tries to invade your hive in the winter. Make sure you are keeping an eye out for these nasty buggers:
Varroa Mites—These tiny, unpleasant creatures are the bane of a beekeeper’s existence. Varroa mites feed off the fat stores on honey bees and cause them to slowly die. They are dangerous in the warmer months but also much easier to get rid of. In the winter you have to be extra careful. During your last inspections make sure you check closely for mites.
Tracheal mites—This one may not be as common but it is extremely important to prevent. Tracheal mites are tiny, so tiny that they live inside the breathing tubes of queen bees, worker bees, and drones. It’s difficult to detect a tracheal mite infestation because they tend to attach themselves to drones. Drones tend to stick together more often than worker bees making it easier for the mites to spread. You can only be sure of an infestation by looking at bees under a microscope. If you notice seemingly healthy bees dying quickly, tracheal mites may be the cause. Fortunately there are multiple treatment options if you do suspect tracheal mites.
October is a busy bee month, though not in the sense of pollen or nectar collecting. Your hive is going through a lot of changes in the next few weeks and if you follow these steps and check out our other blogs, you will have a foundation for successful cold weather beekeeping. For an extensive October checklist, go over October’s Honey Do List to make sure your hive is in order before winter. Following this guide and using these tools is a sure way to keep your hive healthy until spring.