The Tell Tale Signs of Fall

This week we are enjoying our favourite season of beekeeping. The hives have all gotten their five gallons of sucrose for the winter. Our fall medication is all finished aside from some Oxalic fumigation that Dad is playing with. Today, Adam and I are out picking up feeder pails, putting in plugs, and replacing the entrance reducers that skunks and raccoon have spread over the entire yard. It took the hives longer than we expected to take the total five gallons. We must have gotten a small late flow of buckwheat and/or alfalfa because the hives are feeling very heavy. We find the alfalfa makes a really good winter feed when stored away with the sucrose feed, it keeps a lot softer than left over canola (concert) honey. On top of that it took us about two weeks to get the first round of feed and two more weeks to get the second round of feed in them, with a one week break between feeding rounds to allow them to drain the pails. The heavy smell of damp leaves, combined with the occasional sweet smell of burning propolis if we have to melt the screen on a feeder pail have always been a staple of fall for me. The crisp cool mornings with just a light jacket are always a welcome change from the +35C honey pulling days of summer. Although, I think it would be harder to appreciate the cool mornings with calm bees without the craziness of honey season. Both bees and beekeeper seem to be able to relax and take a breath.

Unfortunately fall also brings hungry bears. We set out on a cloudy morning with plans to move two yards that we had suspicion a bear may get at. We have had problems in the past with bears in these two particular yards, and sure enough one of the two yards had been hit. We ended up losing four hives in total with a few more chewed and some flipped over. The bear even ate the plastic foundation, something I am sure he will regret later. The loss of hives is never good but what really bothers us is we knew there was a possibility and had the intention to move them out of the yard. It's easy to blame the bear but it's more apt to blame ourselves. We have to always be thinking ahead or more importantly acting ahead, because some bear damage is only a minor consequence of reactionary beekeeping. This is something we constantly struggle with in the beekeeping side of the business, we always seem to be one step behind. Often this is chalked up to the fact that we are always busy in the wood shop and since the shop is the first stop in the morning we always get to the yards later than expected. We seem to be busy in the mornings returning a phone call, loading a customer, or resetting a saw blade for one of the workers. The bees never complain they just dwindle in numbers or not produce to their potential and because of that we face a constant struggle to give them the attention that they require.