Seasons: Autumn
August, September, and October
Pollen and Nectar

In these three months the bees bring in copious amounts of pollen in preparation for winter. Nearly all of this pollen is eaten by the bees by October and stored in their bodies as fats and protein. Winter bees so produced are physiologically different to the summer bee; so that by springtime they are still capable of looking after the new brood i.e. acting as nurse bees.

Much of the pollen which is brought at this time in this area is pure white, the source of which remain unidentified but thought to be from hedge bindweed. Another pollen which can only be described as a spectacular luminescent orange is again unidentified (montbretia or nasturtium maybe?).

At the beginning of September the bees become very active topping up their winter stores. The fuchsia flowers in profusion. The nectar from the ivy is eagerly sought out by the bees being especially rich; the pollen is a dull yellow.
Feeding for Winter

Each black bee colony requires 30 - 35 lb. of sealed stores to see it through the winter and provide sufficient stores for the initial spring build up.
At the start of September each colony receives 20 lb. of sugar which provides about 24 lb. of sealed stores. It is assumed that the colony can make up the deficit from the autumn forage mainly from the mature ivy.
The formula for winter feeding is 2 lb. sugar dissolved in 1 pint of warm water.
The metric equivalent is 0.90 kg in 570 ml.
Keeping the same ratio 1 kg is dissolved in 630 ml warm water.
This gives a solution which is 62% in sugar w/w.
20 lb. sugar equates to 9 kg.
My feeders are described as the rapid English type by Thorne's. They are very sturdy white plastic with a central dome which sits on the hole on the crown board. The dome is covered by a transparent cup which allow the feeding bees to be observed. Each feeder holds about 6 liters of solution.
The 9 kg sugar is given over a period of about 5 days in three lots: 4kg, 3 kg, and finally 2 kg. These quantities are dissolved respectively in 2520 ml , 1890 ml , and 1260 ml warm water. If the water used is about 1/3 boiling and 2/3 cold water the final temperature is about 30 °C. This warm syrup is readily welcomed by the bees. The first lot is given to be bees late in the evening otherwise the bees may go looking around the apiary for this new source of nectar; this could encourage robbing.
It is remarkable how quickly this syrup is taken down and stored. The feeding is usually over in 5 days. The bees will readily clean up the last remaining syrup in the feeder if the cup is removed.
Honey Extraction

The supers are removed and the honey extracted starting the second week in August when the summer nectar flow has come to an end. The cappings are almost pure white. Immediately after extracting the honey is free flowing and is passed firstly through a metal sieve which retain the larger bits of wax, and then through a fine conical straining bag. This latter process can be quite slow.
After straining the honey is left in a warm place to settle overnight and then bottled. Sometimes it helps if the honey is kept warm by surrounding the tank with an electric blanket!

The cappings are fed back to the bees usually a nuc or a small colony in a feeder. After a few days with the bees the honey has been removed and the wax is added to near boiling water. The now clean melted wax floats to the top of the water, is allowed to cool and a very nice wax pancake obtained.
Play flights

Young bees from the last of the brood can be seen on play flights at this time. These are an especially welcome sight as these are the bees which will take the colony through the winter.

The bees from a number of hives often emerge together in the early afternoon during a sunny spell. They fly excitedly in front of and around each hive learning the position of the hive and its orientation in the apiary.
During these play flights the older foraging bees many carrying pollen can be seen flying through the masses.

After about 10 minutes the young bees disappear back into the hive and all appears quiet again.

After feeding mouseguards are fixed and each hive treated with linseed oil as a wood preservative. And then strapped down for the winter.
So marks the end of the beekeeping season.
The Queen and egg laying

The rate at which the queen lays her eggs decreases rapidly at this time. So the bees spend a shorter time on brood rearing and put more energy in preparing for winter. This characteristic of the black bee gives them an advantage in that all pollen and nectar is used for winter stores. The lack of brood at this time can be somewhat deceptive for the inexperienced beekeeper in so far it might be concluded that the colony is queenless.
Drones expelled

On late August afternoons some excitement can be observed at the hives. The workers are very busy dragging drones out of each hive. At this time of the season the drones have fulfilled their purpose and are given short shrift by the workers.

The photo shows one particular drone being roughly handled by six workers before being tossed off the alighting board. (One bee (top-right) appears to be carrying a varroa mite!)

This behaviour is commonly called the massacre of the drones.
Thorne's English feederThorne's English feeder
Formic acid treatment for varroa

The two week interval before winter feeding enables the colonies to be treated for varroa with formic acid (see Varroa 3).
Next Page: Winter
play flights
drones expelled

After the varroa treatment any requeening can conveniently takes place at this time (see Requeening.)
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