Fall Chores For Winter Prep

Thursday 22nd. The middle of September is when it is time to treat your hives with a miticide to reduce the colonies' infestation with veroa mites. Adam recommends Apivar strips. You must, however, only put these in after you remove the honey supers, because it is not safe for humans to eat the honey when it has been exposed to this particular miticide. I got a bit behind and had to order the Apivar from Dadant, and so it wasn't until the 22nd that I got the Apivar in the mail and went to the hives to put the miticide strips in.

This is my least favorite task! I DO NOT like doing this. You have to place two strips between the frames at opposite corners in the bottom box of each hive, and two strips the the opposite opposite corners between the frames of the top box. This means you need to take off the top box. Last year when I did this, I was worried I would not be able to remove the top box on my own because it would be too heavy, so a very kind and brave friend of mine, Susan, who had no experience with bees, came and helped me. We lifted the upper boxes together and placed them on the ground, then put in the 2 Apivar strips in the bottom box, then lifted the top box up and back onto the bottom box. It is quite a job to pry the top box off, not to mention putting it back on again without squishing all the bees that are now flowing out of the bottom box. I remember doing a lot of smoking and coaxing bees with the smoker. But it is also a thankless job because the bees are really irritable at this time of year and they get very aggressive with anyone messing with their hive. Last year we both got stung!

So I wasn't looking forward to it this year. And this year I felt confident enough to do it on my own. So on my own, I pried the top box off the bottom box (this took forever because they were all stuck fast!), and then lifted it all on my own onto the upturned lid on the ground with great effort as it weighs a ton! and you really do NOT want to drop it! I got three of the 4 hives done: Hives 2, 3 and 5 without dropping anything and without putting my back out. However, I did get stung! Darn!! Though I was covered from head to toe, one managed to sting me through my thick sweatshirt. So before I did the next one I went back to the house and put on a second sweatshirt and my rain pants. Try to get me now!

I noticed that when I examined Hive 2 - the one we had taken the honey from last week, it seemed much lighter than the other hives. I wonder whether we took too much of the honey? I assumed you could always take what was in the supers since the rest of the hive was full. But maybe that isn't so. Hmmm. Would they have enough to make it through the winter??

Hive 6 I didn't do because it still had the honey super on and I didn't have time to deal with taking it off. Leave that for another time.

While I was doing all this, the wasps (yellow jackets) were a real nuisance! They kept buzzing right in front of my face (in front of the veil) and buzzing all over me and landing on me. Hundreds kept landing in the sugar syrup I was filling up all the feeders with. I had to go and get a sieve so that I could pour the syrup into the feeders through it to catch all the wasps as they came flowing out with the syrup. I didn't want to fill up the bees' feeders with wasps!

 I used this sieve to catch the wasps that were in with the sugar syrup, when I was pouring the sugar syrup from the watering can into the feeders in the hives. This is how many wasps came out!

I used this sieve to catch the wasps that were in with the sugar syrup, when I was pouring the sugar syrup from the watering can into the feeders in the hives. This is how many wasps came out!

Then, when I was heading back to the house, the bees lost interest soon after I turned down the bend in the path behind the shrubs, as usual. The yellow jackets, on the other hand, kept following me all the way back to the house. There I was, standing outside the house with yellow jackets all flying around me and I had no idea what to do. With bees, they leave you alone after a point. I didn't have a clue what to do with wasps. Didn't want to take off my veil or go into the house with all those wasps around!

In the end I quickly opened the garage doors, popped inside and closed the garage doors again, and amazingly, pretty much all of them stayed outside. Problem solved.

Nevertheless, ever since the honey extracting on Sept 18th, wasps have been hanging around the front of our garage for over a week! I would look out the window and see them there, exploring the garage door (I kept it closed), and whenever I went out to harvest or process vegetables, if I was anywhere near the garage, one or two really pesky ones would come and explore me, buzzing really close to my face and arms. Very annoying! The day of the CSA (Friday), I was concerned that they would still be there and would start to harass the customers! I don't remember having such a wasp problem last year!

Sunday 25th. On this day I removed the honey super on hive 6 so I could put the Apivar strips in. I did not want to deal with it, but if I could just get it done quickly, that would be it!

Before I set out, I heard Norman (who had been mowing outside) come into the house and slam the door. "I just got stung by one of your bees" he said, looking decidedly frazzled. Upon further questioning, it turns out he had been mowing around the hives as he usually does, when one of the bees stung him. I told him that the bees are particularly aggressive at this time of year and I wish I had known he was planning on mowing there since I would have advised wearing protective gear. "Oh really? Now you tell me!" he said.

When I got down to the apiary, there was the abandoned lawnmower in the middle. I hauled it away and got to work on Hive 6.

This time, I did not use the fume board to remove the bees from the honey super. You aren't going to believe this, but I just took out each frame and dusted the bees off, then popped the frame into a plastic storage bin and quickly shut the lid. Bees and wasps were flying in a dense cloud around me, but I had 5 layers of clothing (well, more than one layer at least) and felt I could get away with anything. Then I took off the top box, put in the Apivar strips, lifted it with GREAT effort again and put it back, put the Apivar strips in the top one, filled the feeder with sugar syrup, put a pollen patty on the top and closed it up.

Phew! All four hives now have 4 Apivar strips for mite treatment, full feeders, and pollen patties. Hoo-ray. My job is done.

Actually, not quite. Every 3-4 days I have to fill up the feeders for the next 2 months or so, and at the beginning of November I need to remove the Apivar strips, which involves doing the reverse of what I just described. But my point was, I got those Apivar strips in before it was too late!

As for the honey in the frames I removed from Hive 6, I noticed that most of it was not capped. Only capped honey has the correct moisture level and you are only supposed to collect capped honey. So now I'm not sure what to do. Adam has described putting uncapped honey frames in a room with a dehumidifier, but we don't have a dehumidifier. Hmmm. Will have to solve that problem later.

One final thing: I forgot to mention that on the day we removed the honey supers from Hive 2 to extract honey, I saw something very strange. I was dumping bits of wax comb into the plastic tray I had and I saw a very very strange bee walking about in among the chunks of wax. This bee had no abdomen and not much of a thorax! It was just a head and part of a thorax with 3 pairs of legs, and it was alive, walking along as if there was nothing wrong in the world! How on earth can that be???