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Pre-Winter Inspections Started

I went into a little over half of my hives this weekend, breaking them down (frame-by-frame) until I found a queen or eggs or larva. I have been hearing murmurings of starving bees (we have had a real drought in parts of central Virginia, near Richmond) and mite problems. I can’t speak to the latter (I do not treat for mites, so I rarely do a mite drop count – haven’t done a one this year), but I can say that none of my bees are starving (well, none of the 18 hives that I checked anyway). In fact, I am very pleased.

The bees that were bringing in nectar in late June ended up capping off another round of supers (well, one capped a Shallow and a Medium and another capped a Shallow), not including the substantial capped honey in the brood nest (Deep-Medium set-up). Unfortunately, that outyard was my first inspection, which gave me really high hopes for the rest of the yards. For the most part, nothing else came close to that first set of hives. Clearly, location makes a big difference (something about that location on the James – tons of blooming clover, I am guessing, with good rain (while the rest of us suffered!)) I am not sure if I will extract those supers or not at this point. I will wait until mid-September to make that call (and after I have checked all of my hives.)

Nearly every hive had capped 90% of the Medium of their brood chamber (again, I run a Deep and a Medium for the bee’s home, year round, so this is where they need to store what they will need for the Winter.) A few hives were sitting on uncapped Mediums (I’d guess 70% full), but these were all starter hives from this year (Nuc’s, swarms or cut-outs). I even found a few queens, although I wasn’t looking for them. The Berkeley Hive actually still has the old Blue Queen from last year. I’m sure they will look to swarm next year.

The goal of all of the work last weekend was to make a spot check on the bees. In some cases, these bees had capped Mediums in late June. Some folks had told me that bees will eat into these stores if they are left on the hive. I definitely did not find that. I ran this experiment in 4 different outyards, 3 of which I checked this past weekend. The bees did not eat into their stores. They didn’t add to the stores (in most cases), but neither did they eat into them. But, this is August and we still have the month of September to make it through. Regardless, I now know the 3 hives that I need to watch (late splits from this year that do not seem to have made a lot of progress in filling up their upper Medium’s), out of this initial run. I think it is good to go into the hives in late August to get a feel for what things look like. Verify that you have a queen and make a note of the stores. In my area, to the east of Richmond, I have never seen a lot of build up after August, so you pretty much need to have good stores now. It also helps you find queen problems (per my last post).

I am glad to be going into the Winter strong (so far.) I have a feeling that I am going to lose some hives this year (the law of averages – I haven’t lost a single one yet, except for a Nuc that I starved by not giving enough food…) More hives to check over the next couple of weeks and then (with the exception of my hive with the virgin queen) I doubt I will mess with them again before I do the Winter Prep in late September. Wish me luck!

SHB Follow-up: Per my July post, I ran into a bit of a SHB problem with one of my hives this year (thanks to my inept beekeeping!) I ended up combining the hive with one of my starter hives and using some SHB traps to try to keep them at bay. Of course I probably should be knocking on wood, but I inspected both hives in that outyard this weekend and things look really good. I probably noticed 2 or 3 SHB when I cracked the inner cover (this is NORMAL in my neck of the woods and not a problem if the hive is healthy) and found a ton in all of the traps. I think the bees kept them at bay and the traps probably helped out a bit. I removed the traps and let the bees continue on with their business.

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