September is here, and with it, what most see as the start of fall. With the changing of the seasons, comes a changing of activities in a bee yard. Whether you have one hive, or hundreds, the jobs and duties of bee and keeper alike are changing.
Drones became obsolete after mating with the queens of the various hives and passing on their genetic material. In good times, drones are tolerated and continue to be produced in the hive but once times get trying they are purged from hives. This keeps them from continuing to consume precious resources that are needed for the hive to survive the winter. When the drones are purged, the workers will force all stages of drones from the hives. The immature brood die quickly, and the mature drones soon follow since they do not collect pollen or nectar and quickly starve.
Do not be shocked to see dead drone bees near the entrance to your hives. This is a natural occurrence this time of year.
Because drones take resources away from a hive, look for drones and drone brood when evaluating hive health other times of the year. Lots of drones and drone brood is an indication of a hive that has lots of pollen and nectar available.
For more information on drones, see our previous post.
Besides removal of drones from the hive, there are other changes in worker activity. They will begin to scrounge the area around for the last bit of food matter to stock the hive with before the cold hits and most plants begin to die back. Once the plants begin dying back and nectar and pollen dwindle, the focus starts to shift to propolis production. Propolis is like bee glue, and bees use it to seal their hive. It is made out of beeswax, bee saliva, and resinous materials they have collected from plants.
For more information about propolis, see this informative link.
Another things workers will do is rob from other hives. Because of this, you may want to close down the hive entrance, making it harder for other bees to try to steal honey and pollen from your hives.
The queen begins to slow in her egg laying as the temperature cools and she begins to release a new set of pheromones to help encourage her workers to prepare for the cold. From creating the essential stockpiles of resources in places that will be easily attainable during the hive’s time in their winter cluster to their new routines. This will all be carried out and continued through the winter and into spring. Once the warm weather returns the queen bee will trigger the hive back into their more productive routine and typical hive behavior will carry on through the warm seasons until the weather drops the following year.
Incredible, right? We take for granted the amazing ways animals in the wild adapt to season changes and evolved to handle difficult times. However, this is not the last of the awesome ways bees handle the end of summer and in our next segment we will touch on their behavior and methods of handling the cold of winter and inability to gather food. Stay tuned either through our facebook, instagram, or here on the website for the next Slice of Bee Life. See you then and take care friends!