Fall: Time to Cull

Now it’s really fall. It’s good, because the rest of the world synchs up with my worldview, which is that not too far into August,  I start doing all the things we need to do to prepare for winter: treating for mites, combining mating nucs so that they are big enough to survive the winter, and making sure all the queens are in tip-top shape.

(Pictured below: a five-frame nuc on a day that I combined it with another nuc. Don’t worry: they all went inside eventually!)

IMG_1266Basically, much as I spend most of the year telling people I’m a year older than I am, so that I’m ready when my birthday arrives, I spend most of August mentally projecting Fall Beekeeping mode.

There’s a lot of different ways to do things with bees, and that old saw about asking 3 different beekeepers and getting 4 different opinions definitely holds true, but one thing you can’t mess with is timing. There are definitely windows to do certain things, and if you miss those windows, you are hooped.  So, out of fear that I will not be prepared when Fall comes, August is a busy month.

Now that it’s Fall for real, I’ve been feeding those that need to be fed, and doing the 1st cull. Culling is probably my latest major beekeeping lesson.  It’s been said to me before to “Take your winter losses in the fall”, but I don’t think it ever really sank in until very recently.  In fact, I think I first heard that like, 7 years ago, but didn’t really get it. What that means is, if you have a hive you doubt, cull it early in the fall. It’s not going to get any better, and if it gets worse, there is a possibility it will succumb to some gnarly brood disease, simply because it is weak.  Then you have to deal with diseased comb, and it’s a pain in the ass. What it means for me personally is checking through the hives with the intention of culling. Otherwise, I let stuff go when I shouldn’t.  Don’t worry, non-beekeepers, that doesn’t mean kill the bees.  You just need to cage out the queen for use in another hive, if she’s good, or release her from her service if she’s bad (that’s the hardest part for me. I’m not very sentimental, but I feel my feels when I have to kill a queen).  The bees can crawl into another hive, where they will be very useful in boosting its population.

An queen who had stopped laying. Uh-oh…you know what happened next!


I was at the monthly Richmond Beekeeper’s Association meeting last week, and our Provincial Apiculturalist, Paul Van Westendorp, said something that rang true, roughly that you need to remember that by the first week in December, 30% of the adult bee population in a hive will have died.  Why? Those are old bees, not the winter bees who were born in the fall to live through to the spring.  So, you need to look at your hive and imagine 1/3 less bees.

And then think, do I need to cull this hive?


So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Culling now, and in two weeks, I’ll cull a second time. Hopefully that will set up the remaining hives with optimal chances for survival.

Ok, last thing: Super dark honey! It’s fall, and that means darkest of the darkest nectar. Don’t know what the source is, but it looked like coffee syrup, and tasted deep, dark, not so sweet with a hint of bitterness. Saw it at two different city bee yards at least a kilometer apart.  From the amount coming in, I’m thinking some kind of tree? Bee mystery! If you think you know what it is, tell me!

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