Before we were hearing forecasts of low temperatures and first frost, my bees were getting ready for winter.
I first noticed them chasing drones, or male bees, out of the hives. Honeybees do this deliberately to reduce their populations going into winter.
A bee colony will raise new drones in early spring, when it also raises new honeybees for the summer season.
Once I started to see drones getting tossed out, I knew it was time to winterize the hives.
First, I had to check to make sure every hive had enough stored honey.
Each hive will need about 70 pounds of honey to make it through winter.
Although bees live only six weeks through summer, bees will live as long as six months to get the colony through winter. After lifting each of the hive backs, it felt like all six hives had stored enough honey to make it through winter.
Because of the record heat and drought we had this summer, I bought screened bottoms for my 4 new hives to help keep hives ventilated.
For winter, I slid screen covers under the screens so cold air wouldn't get into the hives.
The process chased a few lizards out of their hiding spots. Lizards keep the hive area clean by eating dead bees. I also prop hive tops open early summer with a 1-inch stick so bees don't have to work so hard to get air moving.
Bees keep the hive ventilated by standing in front of the hive and beating their wings 200 times a second.
Bees do like it hot; they keep the hive around 90F all year around but even bees needed a little help staying cool this summer.
I also removed all of the sticks and made sure the lids were down tight. A securing device - think big interesting rock - went on top to make sure the hive lid stays on.
The other major winterizing step was to slide, or attach, a 1x2-inch stick about a foot long to the hive entrance, leaving only a couple of inches on either side open for the bees to use.
The "entrance reducer" helps keep cold air from getting into the hive, as well as most little creatures that may want to winterize in the hive, such as field mice.
One of my hives had visitors last winter so I tried to make the winter entrances as small as I could.
I should do a little winterizing in my garage as well.
I'm guessing a field mouse but who knows what ate the fingers off one of my beekeeping gloves that had honey on it. I don't blame whatever did; the honey this year was delicious!
Charlotte Ekker Wiggins shares her beekeeping adventures at http://www.homesweetbees.com. Copyright 2012 used with permission by The Rolla Daily News. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. Contact Charlotte at firstname.lastname@example.org.