Beekeeping Year

September to October

Inside the Hive - As the days shorten and Autumn arrives the activity in the colony slowly decreases. The Drones (male bees) are no longer of any use and will be a burden on supplies during the winter so they are thrown from the hive to starve and die.

But there are still dangers. Nearly all the flowers will have gone so food will be scarce. Honey bees can turn “robbers” and try to steal precious honey from other hives. Wasps also become a pest as their own annual nests break down they become desperate for a sweet reward and will attack the honey bee colony. Any colony that is weak will be targeted. In defence the workers can seal up and reduce their hive entrance with a resin called propolis which is collected from tree resins. By sealing up any gaps in their home the bees only have to defend one small entrance.

The bees will collect any available pollen which can be stored in cells along side the honey. In late September and early October abundant pollen and nectar can be collected from Ivy one of the last wild flowers of the year. This source can stimulate some more brood to be reared. These will be last brood to help top up the winter population. These young bees may live for 6 months and so carry the colony through to the following year.



On the Honey Farm - Although the honey season is over there is still a lot for us to do. It is very important that we prepare our hives properly to survive the winter. Firstly the hives must be checked to see if they contain enough honey stores to survive the next 6 months. If a hive is considered too “light” then sugar syrup is given in a feeder. The bees take and convert this syrup into a flavourless honey which will bolster their own winter stores.

September is an ideal month to remove any old or failing queens and replace them with the new queens that we raised earlier in the year. At this time of the year the colonies only contain young bees so are less aggressive and are more likely to accept an unfamiliar queen (see queen rearing). A new queen will ensure a strong and productive hive the following season.

We help the colony by reducing the hive entrances with a wooden block to stop “robbers” attacking and also to stop mice from entering the hive during the dormant period. The hive is also checked to see that the roofs are sound and the floors are raised above the damp vegetation.

Finally in Southern Britain green woodpeckers have learned to peck holes in the hives, to eat the bees, when their foods source is scarce during hard frosts. So chicken wire wrapped around the hive allows the bees to fly freely but deters the woodpeckers.(see photo)

After all of this preparation we can only wait and hope that our bees will survive the long dark winter. With all of our best intentions the end result is up to Mother Nature.


Sept-Oct Gallery

Click on a picture to see a larger version

 Woodpecker damage to hive

Woodpecker damage


 Rob on a frosty morning putting on chicken wire to protect our hives from woodpeckers


 Woodpecker protection


Protecting hives from woodpeckers


 Our Helicopters for spare time


What we do in any (rare) spare time