October Newsletter

Hello beekeepers, welcome to our October newsletter.

We’re starting to head into the quieter months of the year, but Donegal Bees always stays busy! We’ve lots of exciting new products and promotions coming around the corner that we can’t wait to share with you. But in the meantime we’d like to share a bit of what's been going on here at Donegal Bees over the last few weeks. 

We made the long journey from Donegal to Cork to attend the Irish Beekeeping Association’s AGM in Mitchelstown on Sept 17th. It was a great day meeting everyone from the IBA CLG in the Firgrove Hotel, and lucky Billy O Rourke won our Type 3 National Poly Hive on the day, so congrats to him!

We also had visitors of our own this past month… A brilliant group from the Bluestack Special Needs Foundation in Donegal Town came down to Glencolumcille to visit us. They learned all about beekeeping, honey, beeswax and how important it is that we look after bees, as well as hives and how we manufacture them. They also got to make some beeswax candles and sample some honey. We hoped they enjoyed the day as much as we did having them here!

We want to congratulate our local GAA football team Naomh Columba on reaching the county finals last Saturday. They made history as both senior and reserve teams reached the finals of their respective divisions. Unfortunately they missed out on a win but it was a great achievement to make the finals, and we wish them all the best of luck for next year!

It’s also the time of year when you may be considering what to do with any spare or leftover wax you may have after harvesting your hives. Just a reminder to everyone that Donegal Bees has a Wax Exchange Service, which gives you the chance to exchange your raw beeswax for foundation sheets. See the below charts for details. If you have any queries or questions about our wax exchange or conversion services then feel free to get in touch and we’ll do our best to help!

In these difficult financial times, Donegal Bees are striving to provide the best prices and excellent customer service, and we’d like to thank all our customers for your continued support throughout the year – it is much appreciated! If you have any feedback or queries, please do not hesitate to email our team on enquiries@donegalbees.ie

  • Check whether your colonies are being bothered by wasps or robber bees. 
  • Make sure all hives are bee-tight and wasp-tight. 
  • Keep entrances small until the first frosts have killed the wasp nests. 
  • Remove the entrance block and fit a mouse guard to deep entrances. 
  • Remove varroa treatments according to the manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Record the batch numbers of treatments used and the dates of insertion and removal. This is a legal requirement. 

Courtesy of the Haynes Bee Manual

October is the time of the year that is crucial to maintaining your beehive throughout the Autumn and Winter months. To keep your hive in top condition all season long, there are a few key guidelines to remember. From properly inspecting your bees to checking for honey reserves, each step you take is crucial to protecting your hive from damage. 

  • Check the Honey Reserves 

While some bees may already have enough food to last until the spring, others might not be as well prepared. Be sure to take the time to check the honey reserves in your hive and confirm that there’s enough to tide your bees over.  

  • Provide Extra Food 

If your honey reserves are lacking, it’s vital to provide your bees with an extra food source to get them through the cold weather. This helps to ensure that they have the strength they need throughout the chilly winter months. There are many different supplemental food sources that you can choose from, such as Hive Alive Fondant and Apipasta.

  • Inspect Your Bees 

As simple as it sounds, this is one of the most important October beekeeping tips to keep in mind for the fall season. Be sure to check on your queen bee. Queen bees typically set themselves apart from the rest of the hive with their long, thin bodies and pointed abdomens. If your queen isn’t present in the hive, don’t wait too long to find a replacement. To handle your queen bee carefully, be sure to choose a reliable queen catcher. This convenient product lets you pick up your queen by hand whenever you need to while staying protected.

  • Keep Your Hive Healthy 

To ensure that your bees stay strong through the fall and winter, it’s important to work hard to keep them healthy during October. Bees can be susceptible to a number of serious illnesses, particularly viruses spread by Varroa mites. Varroa mites can wreak havoc on a hive just by attacking a single bee. Once a mite attaches to a bee’s body, it slowly strips away the fat bodies inside the bee, weakening the insect as a result.

While it’s nearly impossible to eliminate Varroa mites completely, you can still put together a plan to keep as many mites away from your hive as you can. By keeping your bees free of illness at the start of fall, you can help build the foundation for a healthy hive in the long run. Check out our varroa treatment options. See our guide to treatments HERE

  • Consolidate Hives 

Bees are strongest in groups, and the best way to enhance your entire bee population is to optimize each hive. If you have any particularly weak hives, focus on combining these hives into stronger ones. Additionally, if any of your beehives have an excess of empty space, don’t miss out on the opportunity to address this weak spot. Hives with too much empty space should be carefully restructured to allow enough room for your strongest bees.

  • Adapt to the Weather 

One of the most important October beekeeping tips to follow is adapting your hive to the changing seasons. As you get deep into autumn and begin to approach winter, the temperatures will be dropping quickly. It’s your job to ensure that your bees stay healthy and receive the support they need during the colder months. There are many ways to properly insulate your hive from frigid temperatures. A hive stand can help protect your bees from the cold while preventing moisture problems. [Courtesy of Dadant

The main causes of winter losses are queenless colonies, starvation, varroa and damp in the hives. All of these are within your control. Your bees are a valuable asset, and they deserve your best attention. 

Preparing for Winter

Help your bees by making sure that they don’t run short of food. A National Standard brood comb full of honey contains about 2.3kg (5lb), or 1.15kg (2.5lb) per side. Go through the brood nest and estimate the amount of stores. Then ‘heft’ the hive: raise the back and side of the hive in turn just enough to slip an imaginary postcard between it and the stand. Try to relate how this feels to your estimate of the stores present. With practice you’ll be able to estimate stores just by hefting. Then feed the appropriate amount of strong sugar syrup using your feeder of choice. A well-fed colony will feel as though it’s nailed to the stand.  

Robbing is best controlled by never letting it start. Don’t spill syrup. Don’t have leaky feeders. Make sure the only way into the hive is through the entrance. Reduce this to a size the guard bees can defend. If bees have to queue to get in, more of them will be stimulated to become guards.


With all the required syrup/fondant now in the brood chamber, all should be well for winter. Fit a mouse guard to the entrance if not done already. Strap and or weigh down the roof against winter wind. Monitor the now small entrance regularly for the build up of dead bees. Bees are dying all the time and just a few can block the entrance leaving the others unable to get out. Keep a regular check for rain getting in. Feeding should not be required yet but keep an emergency block of fondant with you just in case (most of the colonies that die out are due to starvation). Most important remember bees are livestock and we have a duty to look after them as best we can.

TIP: Joining a local beekeeping association or club is the best way to learn about the particulars of beekeeping for your region. It’s one of the first things we suggest to anyone looking to become a beekeeper. 

Federation of Irish Beekeepers Association - https://irishbeekeeping.ie/

​Irish Beekeepers Association CLG - https://www.irishbeekeepersassociation.com/

Native Irish Honey Bee Society - https://nihbs.org/

Essential Equipment:

Our Basic Kit includes a beesuit, gloves, smoker, hive tool and a bee brush. €115 

Lastly, thank you for keeping bees! Let us know if you have any questions regarding your hive, we’re always happy to help. 

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1 comment

  • hi folks will you have a product stand at the honey show on Sunday in Castlefin for 3 Rivers bee club
    and will it be possible to exchange wax for foundation at it -

    Olivia Brown

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