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?
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