It’s been a beautiful weekend in Oregon after last week’s record-breaking storm, and we took advantage of the weather to do a thorough pre-winter inspection of our hives. With one possible exception, they look very good, and all have enough stores for winter.
Hive #1. Our original nuc from Ruhl Bee last year, still with their original queen. Brood nest consolidated in the center of the lower box, with 70-80 lbs of honey up top and almost no empty comb. Queen still laying, though we didn’t find her.
Hive #5. I’ve been noticing less entrance activity and no pollen coming in over the last few weeks, so I was a bit worried. We found small patches of capped brood, indicating the queen was last laying about three weeks ago. We did, however, find a healthy-looking queen. It’s possible that they superseded, in which case the new queen should start laying soon, or it’s possible the existing queen is simply taking an extended break from laying, which is not unheard of this time of year. They overwintered in the smallest cluster last year and still built up fast in spring, so perhaps they will do it again. I would place the odds of successful overwintering at 50% for this hive, and at 85% for all of the others. Plenty of stores for winter.
Hive #6. Our strongest summer hive, having overwintered in a single deep from a midsummer swarm, has consolidated their brood nest into the lower deep with brood raising slowing down for winter. About 100 lbs of stores, mostly their own as we fed them very little. Smart bees…
Hive #7. Started as a three-frame nuc with an Old Sol queen in early June, this is our only hive going into winter with a first-year queen. They are also the strongest at present, and they have a significant mite load though with no outward symptoms. As they were below treatment threshold in August, they didn’t get our thymol treatment, but they will be getting oxalic acid in early December. Plenty of stores, but still some solid frames of brood in the lower chamber.
Hive #8. The tree bees had no stores to speak of in late August, as I trapped them out of their honey-filled tree in late June. After over a month of feeding, they have about 60 lbs, which is probably enough but as they have four empty frames in the top box yet we will keep feeding for the next few weeks. We found the queen, and they have somewhat less brood and bees than the other three strong hives so they should be frugal through the winter.
All except #8 (which we are still feeding) got their screened covers filled with cedar chips to absorb winter moisture. With the exception of oxalic acid for mites, there is not much a beekeeper can do between now and March except watch and hope. I am hopeful…