It's autumn! Time to do those beekeeping chores to wrap up the season and prepare for winter.
The number one thing to get done at the end of the season is to harvest the honey. This is what you have been working toward all summer. Your bees have served your garden and the surrounding environment well and perhaps they have made some extra for you, the beekeeper, to take.
1. Make absolutely sure the bees have plenty of honey for themselves to get through the winter. They didn't make it for us to take but to ensure the survival of their colony during cold months. However, they don't know when they have enough so they continue to make it in excess as long as the weather permits. Your brood boxes should be very heavy when you try to lift them.
2. A day or two before you want to harvest your honey place a bee escape board (There are other methods besides the escape board such as fume boards or blowing off the bees.) between the brood chambers and the honey super. A bee escape board is basically a maze. The bees will go through it down into the brood box at night but will not be able to navigate it the next day. This leaves the honey super empty when you take it. Much better for you and the bees. Remove the honey super and take it to an inside location where bees cannot get to it.
3. Feed any spills or frames with honey residue on them back to the bees. The bees will reclaim every drop of honey and leave you with clean honeycomb ready to be put back on the hive in spring. In the US it is common to leave these frames out in the open, however, in other countries, there are laws against doing this. Check with other local beekeepers or the apiarist for your region to find out the best practices in your area.
4. Once the honeycomb is cleaned by the bees scrape off all the propolis and burr comb.
5. Store your clean frames of honeycomb in your freezer. You may also store them in an airtight container with moth crystals. (NOT mothballs) You may prefer to stack them in a sunny dry spot as well. Your goal is to protect them from wax moths which will eat all the beautiful honeycomb your bees have worked so hard to build.
6. Make note of any hives that look like they might run out of honey before spring. Be prepared to feed them on a sunny and warm winter day if they need it. Keeping a log of what happens in the bee yard and when is very helpful.
7. Place an entrance reducer in the opening of the hive to keep out mice as the weather turns cool and small rodents look for a warm place to nest over the winter. Bees can come and go and easily defend the small opening against intruders.
8. Clean all your beekeeping tools and all your extracting equipment and store. Scrape all the propolis from queen excluders, hive bodies that you need to store, and honey supers.
9. Wash your bees suit and store until spring.
10. Sit down and enjoy a cup of tea with the honey from your own beehive!