This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wintering preperations

Now the hives are fed and medicated I am waiting for the cold weather to hit before covering my bees. I usually wait until Thanksgiving weekend to cover the hives. If it is going to snow several inches before this time I will cover before the snow hits.
Wintering minimums,
  • The hive needs at least 9 frames of honey in the top box. Bees start the winter in the lower box and move up into the top box in Jan. They will not move down, the honey has to be on top of the bees.
  • There has to be at least 8 frames of bees. This means that when it cools down into the 40's, if you opened a hive there would be 8 frames of adhering bees on both sides of a frame.
  • The hives need a wind break. If the hives are not protected with trees on the north and west, hay bales can be stacked on three sides around the hive for wind protection. The hay can draw mice so mouseguards should be installed.
  • No partially filled supers should be left on top. The bees will move up into these in late winter, consume the honey and starve because they will not move back down to frames of honey that are still in the top deep.
  • Keep the grass short around the hives. This can help keep the mice away from the hive.
  • Moisture boards are a must to absorb moisture from the bees. The board absorbs the water vapor then evaporates it into the air away from the bees.
  • Entrance reducers should be in now with the wide opening exposed.
  • A top entrance needs to be provided for a winter exit. This will let the bees make cleansing flights in winter. Bees are not able to go down in the hive to use the summer entrance.
  • A black winter cover helps warm the hive on sunny days to help the bees move internally to a new frame of honey. It also is a windbreak to buffer the cold winds of winter.
Wintering bees is always a challenge. Doing the right steps can help increase the odds of colony survival. A colony that survives the winter usually can be divided in May and will produce much more honey than a package of bees.