Mid October is Time to Feed the Bees

It may not look like much, but it’s keeping my bees from going crazy.

Here’s the results of the Saturday morning bee inspection, transcribed from a crumpled piece of paper covered in soot and propolis:

Hive 3: Has not moved to the top box.  Hangry.  Did not fully inspect.  Hangry.

Hive 4: Sweet bees.  Queen not marked.  Need food.  Have not worked top box and have eaten most of the stores in the bottom box, and seem to be starting on the middle one.

Hive 5: Saw larvae but too dark to see eggs.  Sweet bees.  Did not see queen.  Nothing in top box.  Middle box heavy.  No honey in bottom.  Feed us.

Hive 6: Reduced a box.  Defensive.  Did not open bottom box.  Lots of honey in top two boxes.

That’s as much as I could manage to write in the heat yesterday.  By the time I had done the inspections, as much as I did of them, anyway, and put out ant bait, I was absolutely destroyed.  It’s time for Santa Anas, which means hot wind for us, very high fire danger, and working with a bee smoker in that kind of weather is scary work.  Even with every precaution, paranoia is merited.

We did requeen hive 4 a few months ago.  It had been full of some pretty mean bees.  I personally found and destroyed their queen and crowed with the achievement when I did it.  All the queens were replaced with marked queens.  Actually I can’t swear to that.  I ordered marked queens.  The queens I looked at were marked.  I did not spend a great deal of time staring at all six queens.  If she looked alive and healthy, in she went.  Also, this year is yellow.  Bees are marked with a different color, depending on the last digit of the year in which they were born.  White or grey for years ending in 1 or 6, yellow for 2 or 7, red for 3 or 8, green for 4 or 9, and blue for 5 or 0.  Yellow, they tell me, comes off the easiest.  Whether the Queen of Hive Four is really the queen who came from the breeder or the monarch of some subsequent conquest, we will never know.  But I have no complaints.  Her bees are as sweet and fairy-like as you could ever hope for, and she lays in a very nice pattern.

Although I felt that two of the four hives had enough honey in store, they were still pretty freaked out.  I remember this from last year, too.  In fall, there isn’t much in bloom here in Ramona.  The bees feel pretty strongly about the stores they do have.  They anticipate the tenuousness of winter.  Their brood production slows, because there is less work to do and less promise of food to feed all those mouths, and almost no drones can be found to waste precious resources.  Breeding time is over.  It is time to settle in and make do.  Making do appears to make bees very cross.  So, I decided to feed all of them, just to see what would happen.

This could go poorly.  I could set off a storm of robbing that pits my bees against each other, or other local bees against them.  I could attract ants.  This morning, the hives were all having orientation flights around the strange new obstacles jammed in their front porches, with such vigor that at first I thought there was robbing going on.  Then I realized things were fine, but I was asked to leave before I could get a picture.  It is not prudent to be asked twice by bees.





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