Bee Update and Winter Prep

When the weather turns chilly in the fall, it’s time to do a few things to help the bees for the winter.  Here are some things I’m doing for my bees to get them ready for winter.

1.  Tilt the hive forward.  By placing some shims under the back corners of the hives, the condensation that forms under the hive lid will drip forward, down the front, and out the entrance area of the hive.  If the hive isn’t tilted forward, that water could drip onto the bees and kill them.  I’ve been told, “wet bees are dead bees” so I want to prevent the moisture from raining on them.  Shims are pretty cheap and can be purchased at the hardware store.

2.  Insulate.  There are many things you can do to insulate hives.  I am choosing to use blue foam board, which were free scraps.  You could also use tar paper to wrap the hives, or even place the hives inside a shanty of some kind.  Bees huddle together to stay warm, so anything you can do to retain the warmth and shelter them from the elements will help.  Whatever you decide to do, make sure you can still access the hives and open them up — don’t fasten down the lid with your materials!

3.  Protect from bears or other intruders.  I know bears like to hibernate in the winter, but they may be looking for one last snack before their long nap, and you don’t want your hive to be the source of that snack.  I haven’t done a ton of research on protecting hives from bears, but I have seen some people use ratchet straps around and over the top of their hives.  Bears are very strong and may still rattle things up a bit, but if you can at least keep them from completely destroying the hives, all the better.

4.  Feed them.  Bees make honey all summer so they have food during the winter.  If you harvested honey from your hive, or if your bees didn’t produce much honey, you’ll need to supplement their food with some kind of sugar.  You can feed them sugar syrup with a special feeder, or you can make sugar cakes (large, flat sugar cubes) that will fit under the lid of the hive.

5.  “Medicate.”  There are some diseases that bees have a hard time with, and something that I was instructed to give my bees is tetra bee mix.  This is an antibiotic that prevents foulbrood from ruining the hive and killing bees.  Follow the instructions carefully because the timing of administering it is important.

6.  Entrance Reducer.  I placed the entrance reducers in the main entrance openings, which will greatly decrease the size of the entrance.  This will help keep mice out of the hives.  Mice will not hesitate to go anywhere they can find warmth and food — both of which can be found in a hive.  The bees may not have the energy to scare off or sting an intruding mouse in the middle of winter.

I’m still very new to beekeeping, so I’m sure there are things I might not be doing right.  There are also MANY opinions out there about the right way to do things.  If you have suggestions, send me an email or comment below.  I’m happy to hear constructive criticism, at the same time realizing that “if you ask ten beekeepers a question, you’ll get eleven opinions.”  🙂