The nights are getting chilly. It is the time of year when you snuggle up a little tighter in bed each night and throw another blanket on the bed. You've checked to make sure that the furnace was working and you might want to dip the tank to make sure the gauge is working. I received a reminder to come in for my annual flue shot. And I now throw a hat into the car with my jacket in case I get caught out in the cold. It is soon going to be winter and you've checked your preparations. Have you done the same for your bees?
The Varroa mites mainly attack our bees during the summer but you should have medicated for them about a month ago. If you have done this, those bees entering winter have not been raised with heavy predation by the Varroa mites. They are then healthy and strong.
Unfortunately, there is another danger waiting. The tracheal mites have been a nuisance pest over the summer, as the bees will typically die from wear-out before the tracheal mite population in their trachea becomes too burdensome. Now, as the individual bees live longer, the mites have additional life cycles within the individual bee and cause shortness of breath and make the respiration necessary for hive heating very difficult. It is thus necessary to knock down the trachea mite population before winter to maximize the hive's strength. It should have been done earlier but there is still a last chance to help by medicating them for the tracheal mites.
Remember that the bees don't have indoor plumbing. Bathroom calls must wait until a nice warm day. Holding the wastes within the gut can provide an excellent opportunity for Nosema to flourish over the cold weather so don't forget the October/November flu shot. Fumidil-B fed in sugar water meets this need.
Have you checked the windbreaks? Are the entrance reducers are in place, both to cut down on the drafts and to keep mice out? Is there enough honey left or do you need to feed some sugar water for them to store away while the weather is warm enough to take it down?
With proper preparation, you can be comfortable and confident that you are ready for the normal winter challenges. Take care of the winter preparation for the bees now and you'll be able to relax during the February snowstorms without anguish or fear. You'll be confident that the next warm day will bring forth the cleansing flights while the brood nest is kept warm and healthy! You can then look forward to the first crocus bloom and think of bright orange pollen loads coming into the hive. A nice warm thought for a cold winter day!