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Assorted Wildlife, Beekeeping, birds, Honey Bees

October is Nature’s Funeral Month

Nature glories in death more than life. The month of departure is more beautiful than the month of coming – October than May. Every green thing loves to die in bright colors.
-Henry Ward Beecher  Proverbs from the Plymouth Pulpit ***

Ivy in bloom. The harbinger of autumn....

Ivy in bloom. The harbinger of autumn….

The weather of late around here is the very essence of funereal: grey, cold, with the feeling of the end of days. Dark when I arise in the morning, dark before dinner even in late afternoon. There is not a lot of the color Beecher refers to here, although my lawn is covered golden leaves and pine needles. I must to feeling a bit melancholy and the weather certainly does not help. So I really cannot relate to

You ought to know that October is the first Spring month.
-Karel Capek The Gardener’s October

He does go onto explain himself, and I cannot fault his logic:

… the month of underground germination and sprouting, of hidden growth, of swelling buds; scratch a little into the ground and you will find buds ready made, thick as your thumb, fragile shoots and struggling roots – I can’t help you, Spring is here; go out, gardener, and plant (but be careful that you don’t cut with the spade a sprouting narcissus bulb). 

Yes, he is right, but while all this growth is happening under ground, a blazing funeral is overhead. So why do I feel neither the growth nor the blaze?


Or not. What sounds like a swarm, look like a swarm, but isn’t a swarm? When it’s a zillion bees on a huge ivy, loading up for winter.

You can't see them, but they are there....

You can’t see them, but they are there….

I really did think it was a swarm mostly because of the roar of the buzzing. And also because this is a favorite go-to place for the garage bees when they do swarm. However, upon closer examination, all the bees I saw were loaded down with pollen and happily going from blossom to blossom.

Honey or not honey

The last post generated some discussion over the role of sugar syrup in honey, as well as the unusual ingredients bees pick up on the way. We are still on sugar syrup, especially with our nuc bees. I was told that you feed them syrup until they stop taking it. And then you apply the fondant. But I am seeing from other posts and discussion lists that bee feeding should end at the end of September to be replaced by fondant for most of the winter. All I know is the bees usually tell me when they don’t want the syrup anymore, but it would be interesting to hear other views on this.

Usually when I give the bees fondant, it is in the form of delicate sheets. Maybe, I am being a bit stingy?

Ah, they really like me….

A nice surprise...

A nice surprise…

I have always like the idea of sunflowers, I mean the idea of planting some. Never seemed to get around to it. I often say in this blog how the birds are better gardeners than I am. Well, sunflowers are a case in point. They very thoughtfully planted one for me, as you can see above. We regularly give them sunflower seeds and hearts in their feed, so I guess they decided to put the excess to good use…

Really, I am not following you around, Rusty! She has an excellent post about how bees and other pollinators dominate the sunflower at one point in its life, while birds take over towards the end. I’m going to try re-gifting this sunflower to the birds (check out the post at the Honey Bee Suite).

***exact page for quote: https://archive.org/stream/proverbsfromplym00beec#page/10/mode/2up. I urge you to look at this for an example of excellent use of digitization at least.

Thanks to Jonathan Wallace for the instructive video. I have one question: where do you get those big-ass blocks of fondant?!


16 thoughts on “October is Nature’s Funeral Month

  1. I don’t experience funeral weather until January and then only if it’s a really cold January. My girls are glorifying in our “second spring”–the bloom up of our autumn flowers. I agree with your friend on the sunflowers, too. There’s a native Texas sunflower (Goldeneye, Viguiera dentata) that is at its peak blooming and covered in honeybees–the girls are in so busy. The finches (mostly House Finch and Lesser Finch) are now moving in for the seeds. A fun plant all around! I hope your weather pattern breaks, now and again, to gift you some blue skies!

    Posted by Tina | October 17, 2015, 3:18 pm
  2. Love the post. OK, so I should feed my bees fondant over the winter?? I have some fondant and will do it – not sure I did it last winter. Thank you for putting the video up – really useful. I am hoping my bees have been raiding the ivy as I have been a little lax with my feeding of ambrosia sugar syrup – no surprise there.

    Posted by bluebunny01 | October 17, 2015, 4:04 pm
    • Thanks. Probably best to feed as a matter of course but definitely if you have hives that are going into winter light on stores. I have not always been very good with it. You really have to do it around March time, especially when the colony starts to grow exponentially.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | October 17, 2015, 4:15 pm
  3. I like to think of the stopping syrup by the end of September as more of a guide than a hard and fast rule. Here in London it has been a warm autumn and so we still have syrup on. The climate is changing, weather is different every year and so I think you have to be flexible about these things and go with the weather rather than the calendar date.

    I didn’t like the way the beekeeper in the video fed fondant. He now has a huge air gap above the brood nest overwinter. I prefer to put a slab over the crown board and pack insulating material around it. Also, how will he check how much they’ve eaten without taking the crown board off and disturbing the cluster? I usually find they’re slow to eat it until about February when suddenly they finish it off within the space of a couple of weeks and I have to put a new slab on fast.

    Posted by Emily Scott | October 18, 2015, 4:05 pm
  4. Autumn is a contradictory time. I like it for the colours and mists but not for what that implies, the approach of winter. Ivy feels particularly anomalous, it has this huge energy associated with it as the insects binge and then that’s it and it joins everything else in shutting down.

    Posted by philipstrange | October 19, 2015, 3:36 pm
  5. fondant sounds like a wonderful thing to feed bees…very elegant!

    Posted by annabelletroy | October 25, 2015, 5:28 pm
  6. I put the fondant on the frames, added a super, then the crown board and the roof as indicated in the video, but now I am a bit worried that the bees will fill the gap above their frames in the super with comb – or as Emily says they will get cold – any thoughts? Thanks Claire

    Posted by bluebunny01 | November 19, 2015, 8:26 am
    • Did you use the same kind of big block of fondant? Because I would discourage that. What I use are just the flat, roll-out sheets of fondant. I put it on something like cling film or grease proof paper. I then lay this over the frames. Then the crown board then the roof. I will keep a super on if I am leaving them some frames of honey, but I make sure the super is filled with frames.

      Posted by mylatinnotebook | November 19, 2015, 8:36 pm
  7. Thank you – I will give it a go

    Posted by bluebunny01 | November 27, 2015, 7:16 pm

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