By CHRISTOPHER TEASDALE
Despite the recent tropical rainfall events and microcells that have uprooted 100-year-old oaks in the Northeast, the early fall weather has generally been friendly to local beehives. The weather has been hot, and fall flowers, like goldenrod, have thrived. As I strolled through the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens the other day, scouting with a colleague to prepare for a coming school field trip, I was jealous that local Brooklyn beekeepers had it so good, as hundreds, if not thousands, of honeybees mingled with native pollinators on lush native flora in the park.
Although a healthy crop of honey is a tempting harvest for the fall, beekeepers know they need to leave enough for the hive to overwinter on. Generally, bees will store an arc of honey around the comb where the queen has laid eggs. Frames on the far ends of the brood chamber box are often fully stored with honey. A healthy hive will usually involve two brood boxes, and numerous frames will have full stores of honey.
Unfortunately, that was not the case with my hives. The summer proved challenging to them. Neither of my queens ever managed to lay enough eggs to get into the upper brood chamber; they were partly hampered by the lack of comb to lay eggs in – the wax production of both my hives was severely limited.
The lingering stretch of warm weather is the perfect time to get your hives ready for the inevitable winter chill. I follow three simple rules: 1) reduce and consolidate, 2) clean and store (a rule that I have underperformed on in the past), and 3) feed, feed, feed.
By reduce and consolidate, I mean to open up your hives boxes for a full inspection, consolidate the frames where the queen is laying into the center of the brood boxes, move the full frames of honey to the ends of the boxes, and generally create a space where the bees can cluster during the cold winter months. In my case, I was able to reduce two brood boxes down to one and put full frames of honey in the smaller super into the center of the box to give the hive easier access to their stores of food. Don’t forget to put mouse guards in!