Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fall feeding frenzy! My bees are definitely preparing for winter!

Fall is here again and the girls are busy trying to get their houses in order before winter sets in. Spring and early summer was really nice with lots of flowers and rain and so the bees kept busy. But the latter part of the summer turned hot and dry and there was a definite lack of supplies for the girls to work with. One day I found at least twenty of my honey bees trying to get the food out of the hummingbird feeder And later during an inspection, I found the bright red fluid in the cells of my hives.

While fall is here by the calendar, the daytime temperatures are still in the 80s while a few nights the temperatures dipped into the upper 40s. But I know that it won't be long before the weather will turn cold and my colonies will cluster to survive the winter. But in order to survive, they need enough food to get them through the frigid season, so now the frenzy begins to make enough honey to store. 

This is the frenzy time for more than the honey bees. I noticed a dead bumblebee at the entrance to the orange hive. I'm guessing it tried to sneak in the hive to get some honey but it was met with guards that went on the attack to protect their home. The end result wasn't least for the bumblebee. So to stop future events, I placed the entrance guards on to keep intruders out. Same thing with the lime green hive, and once I take the Boardman feeder off the yellow hive, I'll reduce the entrance there too. I've noticed some daring yellow jackets trying to get in the hives, but the bees usually chase them away.

While I'm using hive-top feeders on two of the hives, I'm also experimenting with open feeding. Here you can see a bowl of sugar syrup placed near the hives and the bees taking it. While I did notice some fighting near the bowl, I didn't notice any bees fighting in the bowl. They just simply rested on the rim or the floating pine bark nuggets and drank the syrup. The next day I used a two gallon pail with wine corks floating in it for the bees to sit on. I have to admit that while it may be an effective way of feeding the bees, it causes quite a stir and looks rather ominous for all those bees to be flying around. 

I've always heard that even the worst of enemies can sit down and have a good meal together. It may be true. Take a look at the picture to the left. At the four o'clock and six o'clock positions, check out the yellow jackets having a meal with my honey bees. They all seemed to get along fine while at the dinner bowl. But let a yellow jacket land near the entrance to the hives...and the story changed dramatically. 

Based on what I observed, the open feeding doesn't seem to cause any real problems, but I can see where the stronger colonies would benefit from it while the weaker ones would get shoved out. But it may have to suffice for now since anytime I open the tops to my hives, the girls get defensive and hard to manage. But that's fall behavior and nothing new to me, but I'd rather not disturb them anymore than I have to so they can get their stores made for winter.

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