Into the Snow- Beekeeping woes of winters coming

So, winter is coming. Here are some common questions I am asked:

  1. What are the bees doing in the hive anyways?
  2. Should I have fed?
  3. Is it too late to feed?
  4. Can I get back in to the hive to check on them?

Here are some answers:

The short 4 page publication from Adony Melathopoulos of Beverlodge Alberta Research Centre will give you an idea of how bees metabolize energy, produce heat, breathe, and survive the winter.

You can also have a look at Michael Bush’s excellent page on feeding: http://www.bushfarms.com/beesfeeding.htm

  1. It is too late to liquid feed. Always remember these key things:
    1. WET BEES ARE DEAD BEES
    2. Bees need feed/nectar to reach a max moisture content of 21% or lower to cap or be considered ripened
    3. Bees use heat to evaporate the excess moisture out of the feed/nectar to ensure ripening. Bees will produce nearly a gallon of water for every 40lb of fully ripened honey, so unripened or liquid feed adds to that moisture load. 
    4. Too cold of outside temperatures inhibit moisture from exiting the hive creating a ‘cloud’ above the bees
    5. Temperature changes throughout the winter can cause moisture to freeze or melt at the top of the convection (above the bees) and drip on to the bees
    6. WET BEES ARE DEAD BEE

It isn’t too late to feed with Fondant or dry feed. You can make pucks and tuck them between the frames if you are very concerned about the bees surviving the winter. Here are some recipes that we pulled together!

You will need to wait until there is a 14-day trend in weather, above 15 degrees, to get in to your hive once your hive is prepped for winter. This year, that was the last weeks of April. Have a look at the http://www.theweathernetwork.com/14-day-weather-trend/canada/alberta/calgary website often, even make it your homepage if you would like! Knowing what is coming is a great way to prepare.

  1. You can also find a stethoscope and use it to check the hive through the wood in the winter for activity
  2. I also know of beekeepers who use digital thermometers on the top of their top bars in the insulation which display the information to their digital viewer in the house.

These actions don’t aid your bees in surviving, but they do aid in the winters pace, and ease your wary beekeepers mind!

Basic winter advice from us? Easy key things:
– Tip your beehives forward by about 5 degrees to allow water to leave the hive
– Focus more on insulating your roofs and bottom boards than the hive itself
– Make sure that the bees can exit and enter from the warmest location of the hive: the top entrance. If you don’t have one, make one
– Lastly, make sure they have enough food. 70-100lbs depending on your cluster size. If you dont have that, or are hovering at that lower amount before the snow flies and there are still lots of bees in the hive. Then feed. Dry feed if its looking too cool. Is it too cool? Read the link.

I hope this was a help to you as you look out the window at the decreasing daylight hours!

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