The life of the hive
What is life like in the heart of the hive ?
September is the transitional period between the summer and winter seasons.
The traditional autumn visit, imperative, uses the same criteria as the spring visit. This visit allows us to give the overall state of the colony in terms of health, the state of health of the queen and the reserves available to spend the winter.
It is also the right time to carry out treatments against Varroa Destructor, a parasite difficult to control and capable of destroying 80% of the colony if no precautions are taken.
The month of September is also marked by the last flowerings and harvests, especially the heathland callune.
The last contributions of nectar and pollen are brought by the flowering of ivy. These last contributions of nature do not allow beekeepers to make a proper harvest. They are precious contributions for the survival of the colony during the winter, thanks to the quality of the ivy pollen and, depending on the weather conditions, the quantity of its nectar.
The colonies prepare for their wintering (not hibernation), the last drones are evicted from the colony, and the propolis barriers are built at the entrance of the hives to fight against the invaders.
If conditions permit, the queen, through outside contributions, resumes her laying to replace the summer bees, harassed by their summer labor. As the queen resumes laying eggs, a new generation of bees is born: the winter bees. They will spend the whole winter in the hive, have a longer life span, their fat body is longer and allows them to fight more efficiently against winter temperatures.
Beekeepers can supplement colony reserves with liquid syrup as long as the outside temperatures are not too cold and the bees are still able to get into the feeder.
Autumn is here; the last good days are here, the days are getting shorter, the temperature drops and the first frosts appear. The bees will forage the last flowers of the year, such as ivy, clover or ravenella.
Egg laying slows down, colony size decreases, and activity at the flight entrance is greatly reduced. The colony enters a stage of lethargy, the clusters are formed. These are the last interventions of the beekeeper with syrup if necessary or candy.
The weather conditions are getting worse and worse, and the colonies are seriously tightening up to form clusters and maintain adequate temperatures for the survival of the colony.
It is very important to make sure the bees are well protected for the winter:
the hive should be tilted forward to promote condensation drainage and avoid the accumulation of waste in front of the entrance. This also prevents rodents from entering the hive.
The insulation of the hives is done by raising them with pallets to prevent humidity from rising. The beekeeper will also find it more comfortable to work, since he will not have to bend down anymore and will avoid back problems.
The hive roofs must be well fixed and airtight to prevent them from flying away and to limit heat loss.
The beekeeper can give candy bread, previously stored at room temperature, in its bag to preserve its humidity, and then placed on the bee cluster. Be careful, the candy bread should not be placed in the feeder, but the feeder should be placed upside down on the candy bread.
The colonies spend half of their energy to regulate the temperature of the hive, the egg laying is stopped and the population stabilizes or even decreases a little. Activity is at its minimum: this is the wintering period.
During the overwintering period, the colonies should not be disturbed, except in exceptional cases (for example, a sunny day only if the temperature exceeds 12°) to change the candy. An intervention in difficult climatic conditions can lead to the dissociation of the cluster, the increase of the consumption of the reserves or the loss of the colony.
For the beekeeper, this is the right time to intervene around the hives: cleaning, improving access, making an inventory of the equipment, melting the cappings and anticipating purchases for the next season.