December is usually a cold month and there isn't much we can do for the colonies. I've already made the necessary colony combinations so I don't have any weak hives going into the winter.If it turns too windy I may reduce the entrances even though they don't need it.
But when the wind is blowing hard I feel sorry for them. I remember well though, the time I made the mistake of closing the hive down too much and making the it too warm - lost some hives that way. There's something about the struggle which makes them stronger. Coddle them too much and we do just as much harm as when we don't help them at all. It's always a balancing act.
There is an adage in beekeeping that goes "Take your winter losses in the fall". It took me years to gain a strong understanding of this concept.
For years I tried to nurse weak colonies though the winter hoping for good results and more hives in the spring. All the while I was hurting my operation and causing bees to suffer unnecessarily. I would like to tell a tale of two apiaries/beekeepers.
October – will it be warm and sunny or cold and rainy? Will the bees find enough nectar and pollen to replace what they are eating or will the hives lose weight this month? We beekeepers keep watch to help if needed. Bees will gather whatever nectar they can find. They will also be packing the lower boxes with pollen to prepare for brood rearing next spring. Hives kept on a scale will reveal some very interesting ups and downs during this month.
September is an odd month for beekeepers. The weather is still warm, and it feels like we should be doing something - but there is not much for us to do. It is too late to raise queens or make splits. We are not adding supers because the nectar flow is over. If we have harvested honey, we are starting to condense the hives for the winter. But, we cannot condense them too much too early. As usual, it can be difficult to strike just the right balance.
August in this area is a hot dry month with little activity for the bees. The nectar flow has pretty much stopped and the hives are not gaining any significant weight. The bees have stopped drawing foundation because the nectar flow has stopped.The queen starts slowing down her egg laying rate and the population starts to decline. Mostly, they are in maintenance mode for the next few months. They keep the hive cool by fanning, finish capping the honey, and work to corral the SHB (small hive beetles).