It's finally fall in Athens, Georgia. Ask anybody and they will tell you this is their favorite time of year. Whether it's the crispness of the cool morning air, or the sweet sounds of college football emanating from Sanford Stadium, everyone around here has a reason to love this time of year. However the same cannot be said for the bees here at Classic City Bee Company. They don't hate it, that's for sure. But they don't look forward to it with the same excitement that we do.
Like the rest of us, our bees are starting to slow down as we get farther into the season and they days start to cool down. Throughout the early part of the fall you may have noticed goldenrod popping up all over the south. This is an important nectar source for the bees as they prepare to make it through the long winter months ahead of them. Goldenrod is considered by many people to be an ugly weed, but the beautiful yellow flowers serve a valuable purpose in providing a stable food source for the bees to build up their honey stores.
Right now, that is the only things the bees have on their mind. Preparing for winter. When it is warm enough you will see them darting in and out of the hive, on the hunt for nectar and pollen from any blooming flowers which might remain. Back at the hive they are working obsessively to turn this nectar into honey and seal it up to be used later in the cold season. However, they don't have as much time to work as they did earlier in the year. Now it is getting dark sooner and staying cold longer into the morning. At best they only have a few good hours in the middle of the day to get done all of the important work they have.
In addition, as we walk around our bee yard we can see a number of dead bees at the hive entrances. These are the drones, or male bees. Drones are really only good for one thing, mating with the queen so she can lay eggs, and the colony can rear new workers. However, the queen has stopped laying for the year, so at this time the drones are nothing more than a drain on valuable and limited resources. To protect the colony from this waste the drones are all savagely thrown from the hive after which they soon die from freezing and starvation. Sometimes I wish I were a bee... this is not one of those times.
Bees face a myriad of threats during this time of year. Robbing from rival colonies, invasion from mice and other rodents seeking a warm shelter, disease, etc. All while desperately trying to prepare for the winter.That makes this one of the most important times of year to work with the bees. Even though there is much less activity in and around the hives and generally, little to no harvesting of honey little things must happen to secure the safety of the hive. If these little things are neglected it could have disastrous effects in a month or two when the bees are huddled in their colonies away from the cold.
I still love walking among the hives this time of year and smelling the distinct aromas of wax and honey mingled with the familiar smells of the season. There are much fewer bees zipping through the air but if you put your ear against the side of a wooden beehive you can still feel that familiar and comforting buzz. It feels, smells, and sounds like home which is exactly why this time of year is so inviting.