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Wintering your hive.

The honey season has come and gone.  Your honey is shining enticingly in bottles.  At this time your hives still need some attention.  This is the time to prepare your bees for winter.  

Here is a check list to help you remember what to do to get your bees ready for winter.

  • Varroa Mite treatment
  • Liquid syrup for feeding when weather is still warm
  • Candy board super
  • Quilt board
  • Hive wrap
  • Entrance reducer
  • Mouse guard
  • Screen bottom board closed off with mite board
  • Location
  • DO NOT OPEN YOUR HIVE IN WINTER

Varroa Mite Treatment.  Your mite treatments should be complete by the beginning of November.  The time to start your mite treatment will depend on the method you are using.  It is good to remember that the bees that will over winter your hive will begin to hatch in September.  That means that you should make sure that those bees are as mite free as possible. So you should consider beginning your mite treatment at the beginning of September.  Some mite treatments are strips that need to remain in the hive for 45-56 days, and require you to remove them from the hive when that time frame is up.  You need to take weather into consideration when you choose  your method. If you have to open your hive to remove strips you need to make sure that it is not going to be too cold at the end of the treatment.  So plan ahead. Also, PLEASE, if you use a mite pesticide that says to remove after a certain time frame, PLEASE, remove it.  If you do not remove it this gives the mites an opportunity to become resistant to that product.

Syrup. Feeding your bees is something to consider.  Until the weather becomes too cold  syrup is recommended.  This gives your bees an extra opportunity to store food for winter. A simple syrup made with two parts sugar and one part water will work, but there is also a commercially prepared syrup for sale here at Deseret Hive Supply that provides probiotic minerals that helps to keep the bees much healthier.   

Candy Board Super.  We highly recommend a candy board super. A candy board does three things.  It provides food for your bees when they run out of their own food stores.  It provides insulation at the top of the hive, which is where most of their heat is lost, because heat rises.  It also absorbs extra moisture in the hive, protecting them from too much condensation.  This should be made ahead of time and ready to install for the colder temperatures.  You need to plan a good time to install your candy board super.  This goes at the top of your hive, just under your lid and inner cover.   If it is too cold outside when you do this all of the heat that your bees have generated will be lost. The recipe for the candy board super can be found in the recipe section of this blog. 

Quilt Board.  Making a quilt board for your hive  helps by providing an extra layer of insulation to the top of the hive.  This will keep heat from escaping from the top of the hive.  It also will absorb extra moisture in the hive, which keeps condensation from dripping on the bees and freezing them.

Hive Wrap.  A hive wrap is a nice way to help keep the hive warm.  There are  many things that can be used to wrap your hive.  Tar paper is used to help the hive absorb the heat from the sun.  If your hive is located in a nice sunny place tar paper is a good choice.  Insulation can be placed around the hive.  Insulation would keep the heat that the bees generate from escaping.  Some things to avoid would be anything that would make the hive completely air tight.  Such as wrapping the entire hive in plastic.  The hive needs to breathe.  Also you never want to block the entrance of the hive. So make sure the entrance is always accessible.

Entrance Reducer.  You will want to reduce the entrance of the hive for winter.  Actually I would recommend reducing the entrance as soon as you remove your honey super.  In the fall all bees, ie. wasps, hornets, yellow jackets etc., are preparing for winter.  They are not above stealing from other hives to accomplish their goals.  This is an important time to reduce the entrance of the hive so your guard bees don’t have to work so hard to protect the hive. 

Mouse Guard.  In addition to an entrance reducer, you may want to consider a mouse guard.  Mouse guards are usually made of metal, so mice can’t chew through them, and they have holes in them that are large enough for bees to travel through but too small for mice to get through.  If your hive is in or near a field or orchard I would highly recommend using a mouse guard.

Screened Bottom Board.  If your hive has a screened bottom board you will want to close off the screen for winter.  You can do this by simply sliding in your varroa inspection board.  

Location.  You might want to think about the location of your hive.  The perfect place for the hive in the summer time might not be a good place in winter.  If you have the option of moving it, you may want to consider doing that.  Full sunshine in the winter would be great.  Protection from wind is important. Placing the hive in front of a south facing wall provides extra warmth.  Moving  a hive in the winter is pretty simple.

DO NOT OPEN YOUR HIVE IN WINTER  Once your bees are all tucked in for the winter you don’t want to open the hive. Keep the entrance clean of snow and other obstacles, so the bees can still exit and enter the hive.

Winter is a hard time for bees, they stay warm by clustering close together and vibrating their wing muscles  which produces heat. They move around the hive to new sections of honey which they consume for energy. Do everything you can to help them survive and you will be happy in the spring. 

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