Its coming up to the shortest day and still the warm weather os still allowing the bees to fly on most days. In most hives the bees have settled into a lose cluster, however the odd hive still has brood on two frames about the size of your fist. This is due to the Indian Summer we experienced through April and May, the first since 1988. The bees brought in a large amount of honey from late nectar sources which they stored around the brood nest.
This stimulated some queens into continuing brood rearing and allowed quite a few hives to supersede their old queen. In fact as I remove the last of our honey crop, its surprising to see so many drones still in the hives.
The weather has fooled some plants into flowering out of season. Five finger and Kamahi started flowering again in April while just a week ago, I saw two Rata bushes in a secluded valley, a mass of red / orange flowers. Perhaps nature is making up for the horrible conditions we experienced up to Christmas or is it telling us that spring will be late.
Whatever happened the bees are going into winter in very good condition and its not very far away now. Mice are looking for a warm winter nest sites and two had selected one of my hives. Make sure they are closed down with an entrance opening of 3/8 x 3 inches [10 x 75 mm] or purchase a mouse guard from Eckroyd’s. You may also find the odd queen wasp in the top feeder of your hives which are easily dispatched with a hive tool.
It may also pay to check under the lids to see if there is enough ventilation. All that nectar which came in recently may have caused additional water vapour to form under the lid or hive mat. If the hives are damp, provide a little additional ventilation by placing a match stick under each corner.
While you are out there, check the hive has a secure base (at least 4 inches [100mm] off the ground), a slight slope forward so rain runs off, clear away weeds in front of the hive and some of the surrounding vegetation so the hives get a little morning sun in the winter. If you want to move the hive to a new place wait until the cold weather sets in, then move it. If the bees haven’t flown for a few weeks, they orient to the new site without any difficulty.
Now is the time to order spring queens and any new woodware so you’ll have it all made and aired ready for use in the spring. Try and learn something new during the winter. Get a book from the library. If you want to know the beginnings of most of the techniques of beekeeping today, how about reading "A Manual for New Zealand Bee Keepers" by William Charles Cotton (1848). Those were the days when we had nice easily handled black bees in the country. A very good read.