Getting the bees ready for winter…

Beekeeping

It’s time to get the beehives ready for winter.  I have two different hives – a top bar hive and a (traditional) langstroth hive.  I have been checking the hives on a pretty regular basis this fall and both colonies have decreased in size.  This is to be expected.  The hive will shrink down to a cluster the size of a large grapefruit.  Although the temperature outside may be freezing, the center of the cluster remains a constant 92 degrees F. The bees generate heat by “shivering” their wing muscles.

One thing that can harm bees in the winter is condensation in the beehive.  As you can imagine, if it is 20 degrees F outside and 92 degrees F inside the hive then where that heat meets the cold, there can be some condensation forming.  Water may form inside the hive and if it drips on the cluster, it will be deadly.  By adding a layer of insulation on top of the hive, it can help with moderating this effect and absorbing the moisture.

When temperatures warm into the 40’s and 50’s, the bees will slowly move the cluster around to get to the honey to eat and keep up their energies.  That is why it’s so important for there to be a good supply of honey in the hive for the winter.  I have been feeding my bees sugar water since the end of August to make sure they have enough honey in the hive for the winter.

This is my third year of having the top bar hive.  The first year, my bees did not make it through the winter.  This past year they made it!  The hive just exploded with new bees in the spring and then swarmed because it was too crowded for everyone.  I caught one of the swarms and put it into a langstroth hive. 

I have never done anything to overwinter my top bar hive in the past.  This year I heard that you can put some insulation in the top.  So, I grabbed some old burlap sacks out of the barn and cleaned them up and layered them on top of the bars in the hive…

 Then, I closed the lid.  That was easy!

For the langstroth hive I added a quilt box to the top of the hive.   First I took the inner cover and top off of the hive.  Last time I looked in this hive the bees were in this middle section that you can see in the picture.  You cannot tell it but I also added some follower boards on either side of the bees to make the space smaller so it is easier for them to heat it up in there.

 Then, I added the quilt box.  It has a screened bottom.

 On top of the screen, I added some wood shavings.  This is to help in moderating the temperature and absorbing any condensation that may occur.

 Then, I replaced the inner cover…

 …and put the lid back on the hive.

Now, we cross our fingers and hope for the best.  I really have no idea if either hive will make it through the winter…time will tell! 

~Denise

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