Three things needed for successful Wintering
As I have said before; "There are many things to learn and to know about when it comes to honey bees." These three tips will help insure you have a successful wintering. Are you ready?
This all starts with Fall Care.
- HAVING YOUNG BEES, and plenty of them when you go into winter. During the summer worker bees will work themselves to death in about 6 to 8 weeks. Where as your winter bees will need to live for many many months during the coldest part of the year. To do this the bees going into winter need to be young bees being raised in September and early October. As the days get shorter and the flowers die back, the queen will slow or even stop her egg laying by November and December. Warmer areas might see a small amount of brood rearing continue, but not here in the mid-west. To make sure you have young bees, you will need to make sure you have a good laying queen, honey stores, and pollen stores.
- If you find a lack of pollen or honey then it's TIME TO START FEEDING for successful wintering of your hive. You can feed a 1 part sugar to 1 part water mix if you are light on honey. You can also make up for lack of pollen by feeding pollen substitutes such as AP23 pollen substitute. Without good food stores no colony can build up for the winter, let alone make it till spring blooming season. A good strong colony will need about 80 lbs of honey to carry it till spring. About 30 lbs will be used just to get it past winter, and the rest will be needed when brood rearing starts again in January or February well before any flowers will be blooming. A caution about pollen patties. Feed small amount that the bees can use in about a week before adding more. In the past beekeepers would lay large patty's across the entire top of the frames, these are breeding grounds and food sources for the small hive beetles larva. Only feed small amounts at a time.
- And last, WINTER PROTECTION. This last class falls into a couple parts. Windbreaks/wraps and proper ventilation. If your hives are exposed to strong piercing winter winds then its a good idea to place a few straw bales to the north and west side to cut down on direct winds or snow.
Wrapping the hives can add another layer of protection if you think you will need it. A good strong colony should be able to keep itself warm during most winters. One thing they can not protect against is moister in the hive. Ventilation in the fall while the bees are curing nectar into honey is essential. At the same time we are wanting good ventilation for successful wintering we are also reducing the entrance to help keep out mice. A screened bottom board used for IPM is useful for improved ventilation. Now is a good time to check that your hive is tilted slightly forward also. This helps any moister that collects on the inner cover run to the front of the board. We do not want moister dripping on the cluster of bees when its freezing outside.
You are becoming a beekeeper. Do your part. Plan for Successful Wintering to Keep the honey bees safe. Read Spring/Winter tips here.
Have a Great Day!