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Question of the Month

With colder outside temperatures, beekeepers are unable to open up and work their hives. Although the temperatures outside have dropped well below freezing, the bees will cluster around the brood and create heat by shaking their wings, keeping the brood at a constant 92 degrees F. As the bees are clustered, trying to keep the brood at a constant temperature, what are the cold temperatures doing to the hive?

At the beginning of winter you should have reduced the entrance of your hive and may want to close off any screened bottom board with a corrugated sheet (this will buffer against severe cold drafts while allowing enough airflow to help reduce hive moisture). This will help prevent colder air from beating against the cluster of bees but here are some more helpful tips that will help your hives with the cold:

  • Fill an empty super with straw and place above the brood chamber. This will provide insulation and trap in the heat your bees produce, while reducing the moisture content in the hive.
  • Create wind breaks for your hive. Gusts of cold wind can find its way into your hive; prevent this by adding barriers around your hive to block the wind.
The cold temperatures limit the bee’s movement throughout the hive. Over the course of winter, a hive will consume 50 to 60 pounds of honey or more. Beekeepers always wonder how their hives could starve with plenty of frames filled with honey. Bees will not be able to break from the cluster in order to feed from frames on the outer edge of the super; therefore, they will need a food supply that is at the cluster. Fondant and Candy (another great source to reduce hive moisture) are two great sources of solid feed that can be placed above the cluster of bees. With the heat the bees produce and the moisture in the hive, bees are able to eat from this feed with no problem.

With these helpful tips your hives have a better chance of surviving winter. Now we must wait until warmer days and hope for the best. In the meantime, why not use the wax and excess honey in other crafts such as candle and soap making!