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Bee-Ginner's Guide

Welcome to the Bee-ginner's Guide Blog. Here we will go over topics and tips you might need as you go through your first year as a beekeeper.

What exactly happens in your hive during the winter?

If you have been following us recently, you've heard us talk a lot about preparing for winter. We have had multiple blog about prepping including Winter Nutrition and Preventing Robbing. Here we thought we would discuss what is going to be happening in the hive during the winter months. Nothing is more helpful than knowing what to prepare for.

Temperature Control:

Any time of year the bees are experts at keeping their hives temperature controlled. That starts to become a struggle during the winter, especially in areas where the temperatures get really cold. Once temperatures start falling below 50 degrees F, and especially once they get at or below freezing, it becomes much more difficult to maintain an optimum 95 degrees F throughout the hive.

You have most likely heard us talk about the bees clustering the winter. That is one of their most vital instincts when the weather gets cold. Just like how we as humans huddle together to stay warm, the bees do the same thing. The biggest difference is they stay in the cluster for as long as it's necessary, which could be all winter. Since they will be unable to maintain optimum temperatures through the entire hive, in a cluster they can produce just enough heat to keep the bees stable. The bees also rotate taking turns living on the outer edges of the cluster so each bee can have ample time in the warmth. To learn more about the cluster. Check out our October Back to Basics blog.

Some ways you could help provide additional warmth for the hive:

  • Ventilation: I know leaving open space may sound like a bad idea, but in reality it actually extremely beneficial. Having a hive completely sealed can hold in heat, but it can also hold in extreme cold and of the bees have no way of extracting it, it could cause major issues.Ventilation can also assist in moisture control. If there is no way for the any moisture buildup to escape the hive, it might freeze the bees.

  • Insulation: There are multiple ways to provide insulation. As heat rises the bees will spend most of their time in the upper parts of the hive so adding a wintering inner cover with a homasote insulation board can help maintain the heat. You can also achieve the same effect with a Vivaldi Board and a burlap sack. The burlap sack will even help absorb excess moisture. Another insulation alternative is with a hive wrap which will help maintain a more even heat throughout the hive.

Your bees are just like us; they need food to live. During the winter it can be very difficult, if not dangerous to the hive, to try and introduce feed during the extremely cold days. Opening a hive when the temperature is below 50 degrees can jeopardize the heat maintained in the hive. This is where preparation is most important. By providing them with enough early feed, they can store what you provide in available frames that they can easily access while in the cluster.

In the fall you can feed them sugar syrup using Hive Top Feeders or Plastic Entrance Feeders. Another great winter feed is fondant. It is a soft, pliable sugar paste that you can feed the bees during the winter. Since it is a solid food, the cluster can crawl on it and feed.