RHH is getting the bees ready for winter, which could descend any day now. We extracted the last of our honey last week. The top feeders have been removed and the winter covers added. Next week we will wrap the hives in black felt to guard agains the punishingly northwest winds that sweep across our property from now until April.
Now is the time when the colonies cease brood rearing and numbers are pared down to the minimum needed to survive. Though worker bees usually survive only 30-35 days in summer (they literally work themselves to death) the life expectancy over the winter is just long enough to make it until spring….if spring arrives early rather than late. The male drones are starting to be evicted from the hives and can be seen outside looking a little bewildered. They don’t forage (their only job is to mate with the queen) so once outside the protection of the hive, with its food source, they will die.
One of our hives lost its queen in September, we think, and efforts to combine the colony with another one were not successful. We do not expect this colony to survive the winter.
This year was disappointing in terms of honey yields not only for RHH but for many apiary owners we talked to. The cold, wet summer meant many lost foraging days for the bees. Following hard on the heels of the collapse of many colonies over the winter, the Ontario beekeeping industry has certainly taken a hard hit.
On the plus side, many consumers are genuinely alarmed by this and are educating themselves about the plight of the bees and the dangers of neonicotinoids.
We hope most of our colonies will survive the winter, and that next year our bees will provide us with an abundance of honey.