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The autumn is a special time of the year. The long days and balmy nights of summer are thing of the past. Nights are drawing in and the sun is loosing its power as the Earth turns past the Equinox. The summer has yielded its bounty and it is time for harvest. The farmers are busy in the fields ploughing and harrowing the soil ready for the seed drills to plant Oil Seed Rape, Wheat and Barley. For beekeepers its time to prepare for spring too. 
Each colony is assessed for its likelihood of surviving until the new flowers in the Spring. The summer flowers have long since turned to seed. A few species, Ivy for one, keeps giving nectar and pollen into the late autumn. It seems Indian summers are becoming a regular event. The days remain sunny and warm although the nights are getting longer and cooler. The bees are still active but forage is very much reduced. When the flow of nectar slows down the Queens are triggered to stop or at least reduce eggs laying. The eggs that are laid in the autumn give rise to a generation of bees that have to survive right through the winter unlike their summer sisters whose life was measured in a few frenzied weeks. At this time of years it is important to help the bees on two fronts: supplement the dwindling natural forage and in so doing encourage the Queen to maintain the creation of brood. And secondly to reduce the level of Varroa which are a burden on the bees at the best of times but especially draining through the long winter. 
When the colonies have been assessed orders are placed for sugar syrup. My syrup comes in IBC containers.The sugar syrup is placed in feeders on top of the hives for the bees help themselves. On subsequent inspections if I find a colony has emptied the feeder I top it up. The bees will stop taking down when they are full. Watching the flight board gives clues as to what in happening in the hive. When I see bees coming back from foraging with pollen on their legs I know the Queen is still laying and that is encouraging. 
Treating for Varroa is a tricky procedure. Insufficient miticide is a waste of time, effort and money whereas overdosing kills the bees as well as the mites and that is a double loss. Varroa mites feed on bee brood as a preference then on the bees themselves when brood is in short supply. The amount of brood naturally declines in the autumn flushing the Varroa onto the bees. The treatments are applied. The miticide kills or weakens the mites. The bees are able to brush off the mites as part of their grooming or just in moving about the hives. My hives have mesh floors so the mites drop through the floor into the open. Mites like it warm, they live on bees after all, so being exposed to the cold outside the hive immobilises them and ultimately leads to their demise. Given the warmer winter we are experiences plays into the hands, or claws of Varroa. The warmer weather suits the Varroa as it is capable of bridging the short gap in the bees brood production by feasting upon the adult bees. The greater number of surviving Varroa acts as a springboard for the next years mites to the detriment of the bees. If a Varroa mite was scaled up to the relative size on a human the mite would be the size of a dinner plate. No wonder a parasite of that scale has an effect on bee heath. 
Lets not forget our furry friends. Mouse guards are fitted to the hive entrances. A hives makes a very warm home with a ready larder of high energy food. A small hives can be overcome by a family a mice moving in. Autumn is not really the ends of the year. For me it is the start of the year. The spring yields flowers and hopefully there will be an abundance of healthy bees ready and willing to forage them. 
Tagged as: Disease, Feeding, Review, Varroa
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