We are a diverse bunch of individuals who share a fascination for the honey bee and its workings. Our members range from full-time beekeepers and pollinators with hundreds of hives to hobbyists involved in backyard beekeeping.
Some members do not even keep bees, but are fascinated by the six legs and four wings of Apis mellifera.
The Mission of the Central Oregon Beekeeping Association (COBKA) is to promote effective, economic and successful regional beekeeping through education, collaboration, communication and research in the spirit of friendship.
October in the Apiary
Well, here we are, coming on the end of nectar gathering for the bees. October will still have some blooms on Asters, Sunflowers & the flat top species of Goldenrod along with our great Central Oregon Rabbitbrush & some hardy garden flowers. Since we have had such a nice long summer, most hives should be well stocked up with honey.
Hopefully these few tips will help you prepare your girls for the upcoming winter…
Food Stores - if you've had a honey super on, it should be removed by now, & replaced with the cover, keeping the bee population condensed (ie: not a lot of empty space and empty frames). The food stores will be on the top hive body (if you have two) & the bees will be backfilling down, eventually putting the much reduced brood nest on the bottom of the lower hive body. You can check for honey stores by either looking from the top for the white honey filled frames, or by cracking the seal between boxes, & seeing from below (a great time to throw a pollen patty in there, & peek at the bottom hive body for bees/ food condition. Honey frames should be on both sides of the bee cluster on the bottom hive body, & bee numbers should be at least four full frames or more. The more bees, the better the ability to keep the cluster working smoothly during the real cold spells we get here. Another way to check the supply is to heft the hive from the back to feel the weight. The top hive body should have 40-60 pounds of honey. If not, either feed 2:1 sugar syrup or look for a cause for the lack of supplies: are they queenless? Disease or mite overload? After the first week of October, it is best to not open the hive seals anymore as this is their final sealing with propolis for the winter. At best you can either build them up or if they are weak & not sick, you can combine them with a queenright hive, or larger hive using the newspaper method.
Place reducers on the entrances to keep mice out, robbers deterred, & cold drafts out. Now is robbing season, so keep an eye on your smaller hives. Provide either a moisture blanket, ventilation hole or other means to keep hive condensation during the winter from dripping onto the bee cluster. Cold doesn’t take out near as many hives as does moisture. A pollen patty placed over the brood chamber also serves to wick away moisture within the hive as the soy protein in them expands and absorbs the excess moisture.
Protect your colony from winter wind. Provide some kind of windbreak even if you wrap your hives. Hives can be moved this late in the season but only a few feet a day (on warm days that allow for reorientation time). This should be done only if more access to sun for the winter is needed. In general, you don't want to mess with them any more than absolutely necessary as the month progresses.
Varroa mite treatments that can still be used in early October include Oxalic Acid & HopGuard2. Once the bees start the clustering behavior due to cooler temperatures your window to treat is pretty much closed since you don’t want to crack the propolis seals on your hive for too much longer. Early October is also a good time to put a grease patty in for Tracheal mites if you choose to. Remember to be extra careful if you do go into your hives so as not to harm the queen. Without her, your hive would probably not make the winter, no matter how much honey you have.
Big thanks to Kim from Backyard Bees of Bend for preparing these notes!