Many of my Northern friends won't believe me but it does get cold here in the South. As I type this it's 6am and 37 degrees outside. Up in Hiawassee it's currently 28 degrees, which is why we went up this past weekend to finish prepping the hives for the winter. You know it's chilly when I can stand 10 feet from the hive to take pictures and not have one bee around me!!! Brrr!!!
Contrary to popular belief, bees do not hibernate during the winter. On a warm day the scout bees will go out looking for pollen and nectar sources. If they find something to forage on they will go back and report to the rest of the hive by doing the "waggle dance". Yes, that's an actual thing!!! More likely they will come back, shrug their little wings, and let their mother and sisters know to stay inside. The bees have food sources in the hive to get them through winter, or at least that's the hope. Bruce was busy feeding all the hives this fall, both in Hiawassee and in Bonaire, with the hope that they won't starve before spring.
Food isn't the only issue for the bees. Varroa mites and hive beetles are a constant concern. Imagine having a tick the size of a dinner plate on your back. That's what a varroa mite feels like to a honey bee! Varroa mites weaken the bees, making them susceptible to disease. Hive beetles are extremely destructive! They tunnel through the honey comb, destroying it and the honey. Almost all bee colonies need help controlling the beetles. Swiffer pads, nematodes, and reduction of hive boxes are some of the tools beekeepers can use to help the bees in their fight to keep the colony healthy. So, pest mitigation was addressed, again. It's truly a constant battle!
We started off the summer with seven hives in Hiawassee. Those seven turned into nine and then back down again to seven. Bruce hopes that five of the hives will make it through the winter. Beekeepers expect loss, it's inevitable, but hopefully the loss is minor overall. Think good thought, plan a pollinator garden, and support your beekeeper by ordering honey for Christmas gifts!