Today was the September meeting of the Worcester County Beekeepers Association. The theme of the meeting was Final Fall Preparations. It was held at an orchard / public farm. Ken Warchol did the demonstrating on the hives they had at the farm. There were about a dozen hives, and I think Ken is the one who manages the hives for this location. The hives looked real good - they are well maintained.
He showed examples of a hive which was "honey bound" - this time of year, you want the queen just cranking out the babies in order to get bees ready for the winter cluster. But if the frames are filled with nectar and honey, she doesn't won't have any place to lay eggs. Too much honey in the brood chambers is bad at this time of the year. Hence the term "honey bound." Later in October when she moves to the lower brood box, then you want the bees to put away the honey. It's a delicate balancing act, and Ken says that you have to pay attention to what is going on.
He also mentioned that this is the time to medicate you hive against the various pests and diseases. You can treat for Varroa mites with Apiguard. You can only do that after you remove the honey for human consumption (since you don't want contaminated honey). Apiguard medication is delivered on strips you hang down in the frames of the hive. When the bees pass over the strips, a little of the medication rubs off on them, killing the mites. You only leave the strips in for 45 days - any fewer and the medicine doesn't have a chance to affect the mites; longer than 45 days and you cause the mites to build up a resistance to the medicine (this has already happened due to inconsiderate and uncaring beekeepers - sort of like parents who insist on an antibiotic shot for their kids for every sniffle they get - you develop antibiotic-resistant bugs that way).
Another parasite are tracheal mites. You treat them with Mite-A-Way II, which is a pad you place in the hive across the top frames. The daytime heat vaporizes the formic acid in the pads, and the bees breathe it and it somehow kills / interferes with the tracheal mites without harming the bees.
The final pest you treat for is Nosema - an intestinal fungus which basically gives the bees diarrhea. The chemical you use is Fumagilin-B, which you add to the sugar syrup you give to the bees for a fall feeding. Again, you do this after you have removed the honey supers. Nosema is thought to be a large contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).
Ken swears by this regimen, and he has lost very few hives following these treatment plans. He says, "you've heard the rest, now hear from the best." I ordered these medicines today so that I can treat my hive. It's almost too late, but there is still time. I want to do everything I can to let my bees survive the winter.
It was a very good meeting. I noticed that the beehives at the farm were very active - much more so than mine. The same was the case for the last time I went to a bee meeting. I didn't know why mine weren't as active as these other ones, and it dawned on my one possible reason why. My hives sit at the edge of the woods, and they get shade for part of the day. The other hives I've seen sit out with no shade. I suspect that the bees aren't as active due to the fact the sun isn't shining on them all the time (bees are active when it's warm). Another clue that this may be the case is that I've never seen my bees bearding (hanging out en-masse on the outside of my hive). Bees beard when they are too warm.
Here are some pictures of the hive demonstration from today's meeting. Once again Ken didn't have any bee suit or gloves - it's amazing! I think I saw him get stung once on the neck, but he had been working the open hive for about 45 minutes - it's no wonder the bees might bee a little testy.
And here's a video of the active bees in front of the hives:
By the way, the picture at the top is just the new beekeepers with Ken after the main demonstration. There were about twice the number of members there in total.
I didn't inspect my hive today since I was going to the bee meeting. I'll try to get in tomorrow, if it's a warm day.