Monday, December 2, 2013

Prepare Your Beehive For Winter In 4 Steps

Since bringing home our bees this past spring, we have really enjoyed getting to know more about bees and what it takes to keep the hive healthy and happy. We feel like we have learned a lot so far, but I know we haven't even scratched the surface of everything we need to know. Sometimes it feels daunting, but we are just educating ourselves as we go along and hoping for the best.


It is starting to get much colder here (with the exception of some warmer days this week) so we have begun to prepare our hive for the winter. During the colder months, the bees don't leave the hive at all. Instead, they all form a tight cluster around the queen to lock in the warmth and keep her alive. They do need honey to survive the winter, and one main reason for hives not making it through the winter is starvation. So it is essential that your bees have enough to eat and that you help them as much as you can to keep the hive warm and free from invading pests.

Here's how we prepared our hive for winter.

Step 1 - Remove any extra honey supers.

The honey that is harvested each year is taken from the honey super. If the bees fill up the upper and lower deeps with honey, typically that is enough to sustain the hive over the winter and anything in the super is surplus honey that is safe to take.


However, we have decided to leave all the honey in the super since this is our first winter with bees and we want to be sure they have as much honey as possible. We did remove one of the supers that did not have any honey in it to reduce the space that has to be kept warm within the hive and help out the bees a little bit.

Step 2 - Replace the entrance reducer and install a mouse guard.

During the summer we took the entrance reducer out to help with ventilation in the hive, but in the winter it needs to be replaced. It helps keep the hive warm and also prevents any intruders from entering the hive. We used a piece of hardware cloth we had lying around to create a mouse guard over the entrance. Apparently mice really like to invade hives during the winter!

We will probably reduce the entrance size down even further.

Step 3 - Create a windbreak.

We decide to stack some bales of straw around the hive to help insulate and serve as a windbreak. We left the entrance of the hive open of course, but placed the straw around the other three sides.


Step 4 - If there is not enough honey, feed your bees.

We were able to get into the hive for a quick inspection yesterday since it was really warm, and noticed that a lot of the honey in the super was already gone. Since there wasn't much left, we need to feed our bees. When it's not too cold, you can feed a sugar syrup to the bees. However, when the temperatures dip below freezing, it is advised to feed sugar candy or fondant because the sugar syrup might freeze.

Searching for honey.

In addition to these four steps, some beekeepers also medicate their hive to prevent mites and certain other diseases. We felt kind of overwhelmed with all the opinions out there on medicating, and have not treated our hive at all yet this year. This is one area we definitely need to research more.

Do you keep bees? Have you prepared your hives for winter yet?

~Tammy

PS - Don't forget - today is the first day in our Christmas Cookie Tag series! Head on over to Jackie's blog to see what she has to offer today.

Shared with Maple Hill Hop 

30 comments:

  1. This is amazing. I never knew you had to feed them certain things too. I always wanted to have a hive. I love this. Have a blessed day my friend.

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  2. Wow, I find bee keeping so interesting. I am excited to read more as you go along with your season with bees.
    No, we do not have bees, but I dream of it. I will be glad to learn from you.

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  3. That was very educational ... thanks for sharing!

    diane @ aug's blog

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  4. Very interesting. I didn't know there was so much work involved in winter too. Good luck with your bees!

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  5. This was such an interesting post. I had no idea that so much work was involved in the prep. Wow.

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  6. Bee careful that the mice don't gnaw their way in through the wood. I've seen them gnaw through wood over time, a little bit each night. That's where mouse-holes come from! I do like a good mouse, but not it they're gnawing their way in. So you've got to make sure they bee-hive themselves. (I mean behave)

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  7. I like the windbreak idea. I love the loving care you put into all of this!

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  8. Oh Tammy I know nothing about bees except what y wise blogger friends post they fascinate me and you are doing so well in a short time. Love the pics. Hug B

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  9. If only I had some bees.... I can always drop by and enjoy your bees, chickens and critters...lol Seriously, Thanks Tammy for sharing with us. Be blessed!

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  10. My first year with bees, too. Sleep tight, little bees!

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  11. Tammy, I love this series, it's so interesting - I'm learning a lot and sharing with my littles too! Thank you!

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  12. I love reading about your adventures. It's nice that you're doing all you can to keep the bees fed and safe.

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  13. I do a mite count a few times each season and if the numbers are high, I treat. I used formic acid and oxalic acid this year, and for two hives I had to resort to Apistan, I had such an infestation. Often newer hives don't seem to be as mite-ridden, so you should be okay. Plus of course some people don't treat at all. I wish I didn't have to but I always have mite problems.

    I wrapped my hives with these:

    http://www.nodglobal.com/bee-cozy.html

    But it's colder and snowier up here than where you are. And even here, not everyone wraps. I need to put a snow fence around my field hives and I am behind on that!! The straw bales are a good idea. Hope your bees have a good winter!

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  14. I have prepared mine and hope they do well! I hope yours thrive through the winter!

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  15. This is so interesting Tammy. Interesting about the medication.. you will need to resource that and let us know what your find out. Hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving! xxleslie

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  16. Looking forward to hearing how the winter goes for them. Hope it is a mild winter for all of us to get through easily :)

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  17. Hope they thrive during the winter!

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  18. Oh, wow, I can't help but think you and David are brave. One of my sister keeps bees too and I feel the same about her...brave soul!

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  19. Bees are such interesting creatures. They are not something I have been really interested in learning more about. That was until you got some! I always keep a shallow bowl of water out in my garden in the summer months and the bees love it. We had so many in our garden this past summer. It was fun to watch them go from flower to flower.

    I would assume you can keep bees in Wisconsin even though it gets really cold here, but I wouldn't have the first clue how to keep them from freezing in -20 degree temperatures!

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  20. We are planning on bringing bees to our homestead next year and the winter prep seems a bit overwhelming to me so thank you for posting this! I will definitely be referring back to your bee posts. :)

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  21. I was wondering if you had winterized your bees yet!! Didn't know that about the mice!! Goodness - we have such a terrible problem with field mice and rats. . . . Any problem with squirrels and chipmucks during the spring, summer and fall?? We have a zilliion of those!!

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  22. Love this valuable information! How awesome that you have your own honeybees on site.
    I hope you'll share this on the Maple Hill Hop today!

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  23. I am so happy to read this! We are inheriting hives very soon. More on that in my next blog post. I have been trying to find some great books to read. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks!!!
    Liz

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  24. This is what I like the most. I hope they keep well.

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  25. Excellent post. Ours our tucked away for the winter but I didn't remember to be on the entrance reducer. Thanks for the reminder!

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  26. This is SO fantastic. I wanna be your neighbor! I totally dig stuff like this.

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  27. Hello Tammy, I really enjoyed this post. I was fascinated by how you're preparing your own bees for winter. Mine are all prepared and I'll give them some fondant/candy early in the New Year. I've also had to protect mine from woodpeckers - they are a real problem in winter here. Hope your bees continue to thrive. Wendy

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  28. really great and very educational! I love following along on this journey, one I hope I can take too someday :)

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  29. Another way to deal with mites that does not require treatment. http://www.mdasplitter.com/
    In a nut shell you do splits and cause a brood break at the right time. The new queen once laying will lay like crazy and should be able to out populate the mites.

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