The End of the Summer 2023 Beekeeping Season

Thursday 14 September 2023

With summer coming to an end, beekeepers are starting their fall management and preparing their hives for winter. This summer has been a challenging one for beekeepers, starting with drought conditions, then a series of wildfires, and following up with severe flooding across the province. In this week’s blog we will discuss the summer 2023 beekeeping season, as well as how beekeepers are best preparing for fall and winter.

The End of the Summer 2023 Beekeeping Season

The summer beekeeping season is always influenced by the previous winter. According to the Canadian Association for Professional Apiculturists, the national overwintering loss was 32.8%. Nova Scotia and Quebec fared better than most of the nation, by being the only two provinces to report losses below 20%. Prince Edward Island suffered higher losses, at 46.7%. Some of the main causes for winter loss include starvation, ineffective varroa mite control, poor queens, weak colonies, and weather. Winter always presents challenges for beekeepers, but this past spring and summer brought additional struggles for beekeepers in Atlantic Canada with various climate events.

From May 27th to June 7th Nova Scotia saw the largest recorded wildfires in its history. The wildfires in Halifax Regional Municipality and Shelburne, Yarmouth counties caused thousands of Nova Scotians to evacuate their homes. Later into the summer, on July 22nd, a provincewide state of emergency was declared in Nova Scotia during extreme rainfall. The flooding events that occurred greatly impacted Halifax Regional Municipality as well as Hants, Lunenburg, and Queens counties. Areas in Nova Scotia received an estimated 300 millimeters of rain in a 24-hour period causing hundreds of Nova Scotians to evacuate their homes, and leaving severe damage to properties, roads, and farmland. Beekeepers and their families were tremendously impacted by both the wildfire and flooding events. After these climate events, there was various financial assistance provided to beekeepers, including the Disaster Financial Assistance Program. 

Despite a challenging summer, beekeepers are looking ahead and starting their preparations for fall and winter. As any good beekeeper knows, spring management begins in the fall. What we do as beekeepers between August and November will influence our colonies next spring. Therefore, beekeepers across Atlantic Canada are about to start their fall assessments for brood diseases, mites, colony strength, queen strength, and winter stores. Doing fall assessments helps beekeepers plan their fall feeding and fall treatments for various pests and diseases. Now is also the time beekeepers will consider combining weak hives for anticipation of winter.

The goal is to overwinter strong colonies that are free of pests and diseases. Fall-treatment usually involves treatment for varroa mites, and, when needed, treatment for Nosema (Vairimorpha). Before fall treatments can begin, honey supers should be removed, and bees should be sampled to determine whether the mite level or Nosema level in a colony has reached the economic threshold to warrant chemical treatment.

As fall approaches, and after honey supers have been removed, beekeepers should start feeding their bees a 2:1 sugar to water syrup solution for approximately one month. This helps ensure that bees have adequate food stores for the winter. Sugar syrup is also a great way to feed medication in the fall (e.g., antibiotic Fumagillin-B for Nosema). Tray feeders and frame feeders are commonly used to feed bees sugar syrup. Pollen is also required for overwintering. Pollen provides protein for developing larvae, particularly in the late winter and early spring. At least 3-6 frames of pollen are recommended for the hive to go into overwintering.

Sugar solution provided to honey bee colony (ATTTA©2022).

There are many important steps beekeepers should take to prepare their bees for winter. To learn more about fall feeding, the number of bees needed for overwintering, wrapping hives for winter, and fall treatments for pests and disease, be sure the read the ATTTA “Fall Honey Bee Management Guide”:

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can:

visit our website at