How to Prepare Your Bees for Autumn

….yes its that time to plan for the coming season, and in this article, as the sun sets on Summer we are talking about How to Prepare Your Bees for Autumn. Remember we are in Auckland, New Zealand. Our location is on the wild west coast of the North Island.

Here at kiwimana these are the things we do to prepare our girls for the Autumn – bearing in mind we manage our hives organically – everyone has their own views, here’s ours…

Threats to be aware of as we reach Autumn:

3 Key things to bee aware of:

  1. Invaders – Robber Bees – Wasps
  2. Food Supplies
  3. Varroa Mite Load

Wasps / Yellow Jackets

Autumn sees the Wasp threat increase as they build-up their population by raising new queens, each one who will be a new colony next Spring. The worker wasps will be hunting protein and choose the Honey Bee as a main source of food. So as Bee populations decline, wasps populations start to increase – hunting for protein increasing their ability to kill a Honey Bee colony because the Bees colony population starts to decrease.

Robbing bees

Coming to the end of Summer will see nectar dearth, meaning lack of nectar flow as plants start to finish their flowering. So robbing Bees become more prevalent as they panic and can also cause Beehive failures.

The consistent threat of the….Varroa Destructor Mite

– You must make sure that your Bees do not get heavy mite load, they need to be strong going into Autumn for survival through Winter.

Food Stores – risks ?

… if you don’t leave enough for the Bees – you can get STARVATION as early as, in Autumn !! …especially if you have lots of periods of rain.

Best practice ?

– Through Summer, plan well to ensure your colony has 10 frames of honey for Autumn/Winter.


Inspection Checks to assess;
– laying levels, as laying decreases, aim to reduce space to one brood box

Ideally going into Autumn – for full depth colonies;
1 x box of honey
1 x brood box with a couple of honey/nectar frames to the sides of the brood

Our aim is to give the Bees the ability to keep cluster together for warmth so you need to…
Manage Space, to ensure the cluster are close to keep Brood warm
So in-between the honey super and Brood hive boxes, we add – a hive mat with slot cut in about 3cms x 6cms (3″ x 1″) – the slot must be positioned just near the cluster but slightly towards the rear of the hive.

By adding the hive-mat with the slot…
This will enable the reducing population to keep their cluster warm but also giving them access to honey frames above whilst also the ability to control any robbing bees/wasps who try to enter the honey super, they will have to go through the cluster – which they won’t be able to do if the colony is healthy and strong – other bonus is that it will also condense and concentrate treatments within the brood area thereby making the OAV treatments more effective.

Hive-mat with the slot

Robbing Screen

Robbing Screen

This product designed by Gary is used all year round in our Apiary, helps the colony deal with robbing Bees and Wasps. The screen creates a type of fenced area as it were, where the guard bees will regard it as part of the hive. Described like a fenced yard of your home, so basically if you were to have a guard they would guard the enclosed fenced area which is the perimeter of your property, so the robbing screen becomes part of the hive, we leave the wood unpainted so the girls propolise it, so it is scented of the hive, then if anything comes in that doesn’t have the scent of the hive it is attacked !

Varroa Mite Monitoring

Varroa destructor Mite

Make this a regular part of Spring and Summer inspections but as you get to Autumn you need to have a real handle on mite levels – the old fashioned treatment of once a year no longer applies especially if you want to be an organic beekeeper. Hives can fail 3 weeks after treatment because mites are resistant and the viruses they transmit are stronger than ever (bit like anti-biotics not working as well in humans in fighting viruses)

The key piece of information to note is: it takes fewer mites in a colony to cause hives to fail

  1. Cells – use capping-scratcher to remove cap just enough to check inside cell / Drone brood more likely to have varroa presence
  2. On walking Bees – use sugar-shake, not harmful to the Bees – take bees from brood frame ensuring queen is not included – considered very accurate
  3. Regularly Conduct natural mite falls (NMF) – captures natural grooming behaviour of the Bees removing mites which drop onto the inspection board which is oiled – we use Kiwimana Meshboard – used to record mite level trends using 24 or 48 hours
  4. treat your hives – use organic treatments so as to keep hive organically managed so as not to increase varroa resistance which is causing varroa threat even more likely to cause a Beehive colony to fail according to new research.

Less invasive ways to manage your beehive include

We use equipment to make it easy to apply treatments or monitoring mite levels, so you don’t need to open the hive in often cold, wet or windy conditions.
……to achieve that here at Kiwimana we designed and built by us we use:

kiwimana Meshboard

Used in monitoring mites – natural mite fall over 24 or 48 hours
Method: – Remove inspection board, clean, then oil with a food-grade oil and place back into meshboard, note time eg: if its Saturday at 11.00 am leave in until Sunday 11.00 am and this will give you a 24 hours mite fall (drop) record then repeat 3 days later, then wait another 3 days and as you record mite numbers you will start to see a trend and the if the trend is showing increase in mite numbers you need to treat
Used by the bees to ventilate and aerate (dry) the hive
When a colony lives in their Beehive, they create moisture because of the heat from the cluster, if the hive-woodware gets damp, the girls can’t manage dampness so it can lead to hive failure, but with a meshboard they can use the air to ventilate and dry out the hive woodware, while still keeping the hive warm. The beauty of the kiwimana meshboard is that it has the insertable removeable inspection board which can be used to keep out most water.
Note: if you use a meshboard and it is on the ground, you must check underneath and in the rims for wax-moth – we have our hives on stands so there is more air flow under the Beehive.

Oxalic Acid Vaporization (OAV)

OAV used in conjunction with the Kiwimana Meshboard – treatment applied by accessing through the Meshboard rather than opening the hive, OAV can be done regularly without interference of the hives internal temperature, and with the access with the inspection board at the rear – no interference to the bees flight-path.

Note: You cannot overdose oxalic acid – a plant based concentrate – by using the vaporisation method. Researchers say that oxalic acid does not show creating resistance so is a fantastic alternative to miticides and synthetic treatments. Our experience has been that hives, with good population, recover from Sac Brood and Deformed wing virus.

Equipment used:

Chemical Used

Oxalic Acid Crystals made from plant based concentrate (from Brassica’s like rhubarb)

You will need Protective Gear, gloves, mask.

Read more here:- How to use the Kiwi Oxalic Acid Vaporizer with Video

We share our methods because we designed the products ourselves to bee able to use them together and are confident in the methods used.

Thanks for reading…

5 thoughts on “How to Prepare Your Bees for Autumn

  1. Avatar photo
    Ivan Walker says:

    Hi it’s Ivan.
    I have rely enjoyed all the information you have provided through the year
    and just wanted to thank you . I am a pensioner with 2 hives and find every
    thing very helpful.
    kind regards Ivan.

    • Avatar photo
      Margaret Groot says:

      Hi Ivan, we are grateful for your comments and it makes us happy that you have found our work helpful in your beekeeping – thank you. Best Regards, Margaret and Gary…it’s the kiwimana buzz…

  2. Avatar photo
    Brett soutar says:

    Hiya guys
    Thanks for all your work and sharing ideas.
    I to run organic hives. We have now run oxalic acid as our only treatment for four years. Our girls seem healthier and Queen replacements are down.we mill all our timber for hives and sell equipment and run courses much like yourselves.
    If your interested in any alternative timbers for for lightness or durability. We don’t have to paint our hives and the girls select the timber for the hives as we are milling by landing on the fresh cut timber.interestingly they never land on pine.
    Keep up the good work.
    Brett @Bee fair.

    • Avatar photo
      Margaret Groot says:

      Hi Paul,
      Unfortunately no. But if you get one make sure it has got an inspection board that so you can monitor the varroa levels or mite drops created by grooming bees but the best way to check for varroa is to check in capped cells.
      Thanks Paul. Regards Margaret …it’s the kiwimana buzz (a little quieter but still here)

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