It seems that the longest period for beekeepers to endure is the time between the last of the honey flow and the next spring build up. This year the bees were bringing in honey the last week of June and the first week of July. The next honey may not come in for a year. That is a long time to wait to see the next honey flow! So you had better be ready or you will miss it.
The oldest rule for beekeeping is to keep young queens in the hive, healthy bees and adequate stores. Fall is the time that you prepare for the next honey flow. You can still introduce a new queen and they are still available from some queen producers. This time of year the queen must be introduced into a nuc and then introduce the nuc into to hive.
A queen can be introduced into a large hive in the fall as most of the bees are young and readily accept a new queen. However, if the queen is not accepted the hive is doomed as you have killed the old queen and they do not have time or drones to raise a good new queen. Thus it is unwise to introduce a new queen directly into a hive in the fall.
If you introduce into a nuc that is made up from frames of bees, eggs and brood from the hive that you are going to requeen you will have time to see the new queen laying before killing the old queen. Once the new queen is laying properly in the nuc then the old queen may be replaced with by placing the nuc into the parent hive once the old queen is found and killed. If your queen is going into the third winter it is essential that she should be replaced. If the queen is going into the second winter it is good practice to replace her but not essential.
Your mite treatments should have been on and doing there job. A check on the mite drop should provide some evidence that the mite treatments are working. If you do not have a screened bottom board to check the mite drop you can make up a double screen and place it above the bottom board. You can slide 2 sheets of letter sized paper that have cooking oil spread on them between the bottom board and the double screen board. Check the sheets in a couple of days. You should see less than 20 mites per day on the sheets. If not your mite load is too high and different material should be used to treat the mites.
Hive stores should occupy a full deep box (40 lbs or so) if you are to have sufficient food for the bees to make it into May without adding stores. You still have time to feed. Once the daily temperature maximums get below 50 to 55oF the bees cannot process the feed and will stop taking the feed. We still are seeing daily temperatures in the 60's and can readily add 30 pounds of feed to a hive if necessary.
For those of you having just a few hives you can easily make up your feed on the stove. You should make up your syrup as a 2:1 mixture of sugar and water as the bees will tend to store this rather than make brood. The mixture can be made in a large pot on the stove by first putting in a container of water and bringing it to a boil. Then take two containers of sugar and mix into the boiling water. To make up one gallon of 2:1 syrup you need 7.3 lbs of sugar and about 0.44 gallons of water.
You can feed your bees with the frame type feeder by placing the feeder near the bees. This time of the year it is best to place the feeder in the top box as you can easily remove the hive top to fill the feeder. Put the feed on warm early in the day. If the hive is strong they will consume the feed in less than two days. Most hives that have average size clusters will consume the feed in two days and be ready for more.
The feed will cost about $3/gallon. Adding Fumigilin-B to the feed will add about $3 more per gallon. Nosema is present in all of our hives and takes a heavy toll on the bees. Feeding two gallons syrup with Fumigilin-B to each of your hives will cost about $12/hive. Replacing your hives in the spring will cost about $72 for the bees and the queen plus $6 to $12 for feed. Adding a 60% queen loss due to poorly mated queens in April will add an additional $8 per hive. However, the real loss is in honey as hives that have queens that are superceded in May usually will not make honey and often do not make winter stores. Clearly the cost of sugar and Fumigilin-B for feeding make excellent economic sense.
Feeding for wintering is essential practice. If you have not fed you still can and it will pay dividends for your next honey flow. It will take a little effort but will add great peace of mind in the spring if you have a hive that is bursting with bees and still has good weight. This will provide you with options that do not occur if your bees come though winter weak and low on stores.
Best of luck!