10 Steps to Wintering Bees to Keep Them Alive in the Northern Climates
10 Steps to Wintering Bees to Keep Them Alive (Even If You’re in the Northern Climates)
- 1 10 Steps to Wintering Bees to Keep Them Alive (Even If You’re in the Northern Climates)
- 2 Fat Bees and the Winter Cluster
- 3 6 Weeks…or 5 Months?
- 4 Stores for the Winter
- 5 Out With the Drones
- 6 Brood Production
- 7 Fat Bees
- 8 The Winter Cluster
- 9 Wintering Bees in Michigan
- 10 30 Comments
Jennifer is a full-time homesteader who started her journey in the foothills of North Carolina in 2010. Currently, she spends her days gardening, caring for her orchard and vineyard, raising chickens, ducks, goats, and bees. Jennifer is an avid canner who provides almost all food for her family needs. She enjoys working on DIY remodeling projects to bring beauty to her homestead in her spare times.
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Are you a beekeeper that loses their hive every (or almost every) winter?
Do you know that learning how properly winterng your bees could potentially save your hive each year?
Well, if not, then you need to keep reading. There are many reasons bees die each winter. You may not be able to prevent all of them, but you could potentially prevent a few of them.
So I want to share with you a few tips while wintering bees to give your honeybees the best chance of survival. I use Langstroth hives so most of the tips will apply to this type of hive.
1. Move Your Bees
Since we know winter is upon us, we also know it is only a matter of time until it will be darker longer.
So now is the time to pay attention to the yard where the bees are kept. You will want to see where they can get the full winter sun (or as close to it as possible) for most of the day. This is very important to help keep the temperature in the hive up.
Once you find that location then you will have to get innovative so you can move the bees there. Remember, you don’t want to put them in an area with a lot of traffic.
But if there is any way possible to move them to the location with the most sunlight then that is what you’ll need to do to give them the best chance at keeping warm.
2. Give Them a Wind Breaker
I don’t mean that you need to go out and buy your bees’ coats. (But how cute would that be?) Moving on, but they do need to be in a location where the wind is blocked as much as possible from their hive.
See, you have to think about winter storms. The winds pick up, and the next thing you know your hives are on their faces with exposed and shivering bees.
When that happens, don’t be surprised if you lose your hives. With this in mind, though, you can plan ahead.
So what you should do is place them near a tree line, or put up a fence around them to help block some of the wind. My hives are personally set on the tree line right next to my garden. That way they get ample amount of sunlight at their entrance, but also have a tree line blocking the wind from behind the hive.
3. Don’t be so Stuffy
Do you ever get cabin fever during the winter? Boy, I do! When it is time to start seedlings my heart leaps for joy because I know I will be outside in my flip flops sooner rather than later.
Well, your bees won’t necessarily get cabin fever. However, they do need their hive to be properly vented so it won’t get stuffy. The actual reason for this is because honey bees gather together in a cluster inside the hive in order to produce warmth.
When they do this, they also put off a small amount of moisture. If air flow can’t get through the hive the moisture turns into condensation which will eventually be the death of your bees.
So what you can do is slightly vent the roof of their hive by tipping it up slightly at an angle. This will allow a small amount of air flow to get in there and let things breathe a little. Just not to the point of allowing your bees to freeze.
4. Shut the Front Door
Well, not all of the way. You don’t want to trap your bees, but if you have a large reducer on the front of the hive it is time to switch it to a smaller reducer.
The reason we do this is because during the summer the hive needs a larger entrance so bees can get in and out of the hive easily and more of them at one time. They are on a mission to collect food to make honey for winter.
But when winter hits, there aren’t as many bees in the hive so you don’t need as big of an entrance. Plus, they aren’t going to be flying in and out nearly as much. Their main focus is staying warm and keeping the queen warm.
So when you add the smaller reducer for the hive entrance, it still allows the bees to move in and out easily but stops the entrance from being so large which reduces the amount of wind and cold that can enter the hive.
5. Reduce the Size of the Hive
I’m going to talk about when to do all of this winterizing in greater detail a little further down.
However, this is something that you will do earlier on than some of the other items mentioned here. The reason is because some hives grow to be several bodies tall during the summer. It just depends upon how productive your bees are.
For instance, we had 4 hives this year that were 5 hive bodies tall. They were very busy, but I just had to decrease the size of the hive bodies because as the hive naturally shrinks preparing for winter, these oversized hives were stressing the queens out.
So we just took a few of the hive bodies away, and the hives seemed to level out again. But whether the actual size of your hives (not your bee population) are stressing your bees out or not, you’ll need to reduce the number of boxes.
The reason for this is, that the bees decrease in number over winter. So they won’t be able to take up all of that space. Instead, they cluster together for warmth. Meaning that the other areas of the larger hive just leave more space for them to heat which naturally they can’t.
So that means that you have a cold hive and ultimately frozen bees.
6. Cover Them
photo by B.C. Bee Supply
I live in the south so I don’t actually have to do this step. The reason is, we have cold winters but nothing in comparison to some northern areas.
So even when we have cold snaps, it usually doesn’t stay cold very long. Nor do we get a ton of snow either.
However, if you live in an area where you get lots of snow and constant cold temperatures it might be wise to invest in a hive cover. You simply slide them onto your hive and let them help to keep your hives a little warmer.
But be sure that they are on securely. I’ve heard reports of people not securing their hive covers properly, and they fly off during a winter storm.
So just be sure that you follow the directions thoroughly to get the best use out of them.
7. Feed Them
Bees do not get out of the hive much during the winter. There isn’t much food for them anyway. Nor do they leave the hive when it is cold.
So you will have to give them a supply of food before winter sets in to ensure that they eat. You do this in two ways.
First, you can feed them fondant. You have two options with this. You can either buy fondant which in my area is about $5 a block. This should last one hive for the winter, in my experience.
Or you can actually make fondant. Here is a recipe and it seems rather easy to do considering it is made out of sugar, water, and vinegar. It should be pretty inexpensive too.
The second option is to feed your bees grease patties. You can buy them or make them. The ingredients are a little more complex than fondant, but the benefits of grease patties are many too. They are known to help deter mites from the hive.
Plus, some people actually use both of these options together. That way your bees are fed by fondant, but still get the benefits of the patties.
8. Don’t Forget About Them
You shouldn’t go outside and go through your bees in the winter. When wintering bees, you need to pretty well leave them be.
But there is one exception. If you have a day that is above 40 degrees Fahrenheit then you should quickly raise the lid to the hive just to make sure that your bees’ food supply isn’t running low. This is important.
And the reason for that is that most hives are lost in the winter because of freezing and starvation.
Now, how sad would that be if you could salvage your hive simply by adding a little more fondant or a few more grease patties?
So just be aware of what is going on inside your hive. Again, don’t go through your hives. Just briskly lift the lid, make sure they have enough food, and then close it and place the hive cover back on (if you are using one.) It is that simple.
9. Wintering Bees at the Right Time
There is no specific date as to when you should begin wintering bees. You just have to be aware of what is going on in your hive and what the weather is doing.
So if you go out in your hives and you realize that the queen isn’t laying in all of the hive bodies, then you need to begin to shrink the physical size of the hive. We just did this a few weeks ago.
As far as the rest of the steps, when you realize that the weather is getting cold and staying that way, then it is time for wintering bees. Some suggest doing this at the end of October or sometime in November.
Really, it depends upon where you are located and what your weather is like that year.
For instance, we had a warm winter last year. So we didn’t have to winterize the hive until December. But if you live someplace tropical, then obviously you won’t have to worry about winterizing your hive period.
So just do some research about keeping bees in your area so you’ll know when most seasoned beekeepers in your location begin wintering bees.
10. Stay Calm
Our first year keeping bees, we almost panicked during the winter. Think about it, you invest a lot of money into getting started into beekeeping to not even be sure you will have a hive the next spring.
Well, though this fact remains (because bees are certainly their own creatures) you just have to stay calm and roll with it.
All you can do is keep a watchful eye at a distance and try to help your bees if you see a problem while it is cold. Bees have been around for a long time.
So though winter is a tough time for them, they’ve clearly toughed it out before. Not to mention, winter bees are completely different from the bees you see during the spring. It is really neat how the hive knows to lay a tougher bee to protect the queen during winter.
Truly, bees are just fascinating creatures. So there are no promises in keeping bees, but they are rewarding creatures. And if you do all you can to keep them healthy and warm over winter with wintering bees, then realize that you’ve literally done all that you can do.
So take a deep breath and eventually, winter will pass.
Well, that’s all of the tips I have on wintering bees. Like I said, bees are their own creatures so we can only do so much to help pull them through the winter months.
Fat Bees and the Winter Cluster
6 Weeks…or 5 Months?
What creature has a very short life span in the warm months yet can live several times longer in the challenging cold of winter? That is precisely the reality for the worker bee.
The survival of bees during the winter is a story of epic preparation and a huge collaborative effort within the hive, from late fall to the onset of winter.
Worker bees that live in the warmer months have a hard and necessarily disciplined life ahead of them. From the moment they emerge from their cell to the last flap of their wings, they are aptly considered workaholics. Their industry puts great stress on their tiny bodies and they use a huge amount energy in working so diligently.
The end result is a lifespan of around 6 weeks.
By comparison, the worker bee that lives through the winter months has a much more focused, singular role. Her sole objective is to help see the queen through to the spring, at which time the queen can start laying eggs again.
The winter worker bee is a bridge from one generation of the queen’s offspring to another. Her reward for seeing the queen through this challenging period is the potential to live from early winter to spring.
Months, not weeks….
Stores for the Winter
We are used to seeing our bees venture away from the hive during the warmer months, but that is not an option during the winter. The temperatures are too low and other risks such as bad weather and starving pests simply make this impossible.
And so, bees prepare at great length for the oncoming winter by building stores of honey within the hive. This store represents their lifeline for living until the spring and they are entirely dependent on having enough honey to see them through that period.
The amount of honey required to survive the winter depends on the depth and duration of the winter. In warmer climates, 30 lbs. or so may be adequate but the harsh, colder winters in the north may require as much as 100 lbs. That’s a very considerable burden on the first-year colony.
Out With the Drones
There are a number of ways in which bees prepare for the winter. Their store of honey is a heavily protected resource and anything that limits how long it will last is considered a risk.
Drones are one such factor.
While they are clearly essential to the reproduction of the species, drones contribute very little to the actual running of the hive. Indeed, when it comes to the consumption of honey they are a negative drain on essential resources. Worker bees see this coming and as the winter approaches, they evict drones from the hive. The idea of carrying “passengers” who simply consume honey through the winter is simply not a viable trade-off.
So out the drones go. It’s a ruthless but essential process, including the physical eviction of drones by worker bees.
Along the same lines, increasing the number of bees in the colony as winter approaches makes little sense. Brood at this time also translates into more mouths to feed. This isn’t purely a factor of reducing the number of bees consuming the honey reserve, but also reflects the simple truth that in fall there is less nectar and pollen anyway.
The net result is that brood rearing falls considerably, an intentional act on the part of the colony as it prepares for winter.
Getting through the winter is a very different challenge than life in the summer. Bees are extremely well adapted to their environment at the best of times and they change their body make up to prepare for the worst of times. Specifically, the approach of winter creates so-called fat bees. Fat bees are winter bees – bees much better suited to get through the winter, as follows:
- A compound called vitellogenin helps bees store food reserves in their body. This is less necessary in the summer, when they can freely move to and consume food. But in the winter vitellogenin becomes more important, so a fat bee has more.
- Lower levels of hormones
- Enlarged food glands
- Higher level of sugars and fats in their blood
The end result is indeed a fatter bee, but also one better able to tolerate and survive the cold weather of winter.
The Winter Cluster
With the preparation done and the cold months arriving, it’s time for the colony to “bed in” for the winter. As with most things bee-related, what happens in the apparently still and quiet hive is rather remarkable.
The objective of the winter cluster is simple, namely to reach the spring with a healthy queen and enough workers to restart the foraging and expand the colony all over again. The principle resources they need are warmth and nutrition.
Bees are cold-blooded. However, somewhat unusually, they do not simply die off and leave nested eggs to continue the species through the winter. Neither do they hibernate. Instead they remain active all winter, eating and metabolizing honey throughout.
The queen is kept at a steady temperature by being “hugged” by workers throughout the winter. The worker bees will form a cluster – hence the name – around her, enclosing her in a small but warm space. They “shiver” their flight muscles, which creates heat. With thousands of worker bees this can create a considerable heat source.
There are some fascinating aspects to the winter cluster.
- Bees will be dispersed around the hive while the temperature is around or above 60 degrees
- When the temperature drops below that level, worker bees start forming a cluster around the queen
- The center of the cluster, where the queen resides, will be maintained at a temperature of around 92 F
- The “tightness” of the cluster will be adjusted, according to the outside temperature, with a denser cluster being formed as temperatures drop
- To ensure that workers on the outside of the cluster don’t succumb to the cold, there is a constant movement of workers from the outside to the inside of the cluster, effectively giving all workers a turn in the warmer inner cluster
- If the outside temperature climbs above 50 F, bees will often take advantage to leave the hive and defecate, thus helping the cleanliness of the hive. These are called cleansing flights.
Staying warm is important but for continued warmth the bees need a source of energy throughout the winter. That is the purpose of the honey reserve they build.
The whole cluster will gradually move around the hive, as one, passing over and consuming honey they have previously stored, fueling their muscle-originated warmth. If temperatures are within certain boundaries, the cluster can move around and “jump” from one part of the honey-laden hive to another.
It is not uncommon, though, for the cluster to be stranded – not able to reach perfectly good honey they have stored because temperatures are too cold, even though they have exhausted resources in the area in which the cluster resides. The loss of a colony due to cold, with a store of honey just out of reach, is a sad demise for the colony.
The winter cluster is a remarkable process though which bees find a way to survive frigid weather, thanks to an extraordinary effort and planning in the warmer months.
Wintering Bees in Michigan
It’s that time of the year again here in Michigan! In recent days we’re starting to spot a few snow flakes floating in. The past couple of weekends we were busy preparing our apiaries for another long Michigan winter. Actually the preparation begins way back in late July August, believe it or not. We’ve found the most essential criteria in wintering colonies is that they must go into the winter with low mite counts. Of course, they must also have plenty of healthy bees and food stores, but even if the hives are heavy, if they are carrying a significant mite load they will not winter well.
We’ve experimented a bit in the past trying to find a more foolproof way to winter bees here in our locality. Our batting average when it comes to wintering bees has ranged from total success (100% survival – a rare event!) to a almost total loss (10%). On average we seem to hit 70-80% success. In addition to making sure our colonies carry low mite loads, and have plenty of stores we also wrap our bees and insulate the tops. What follows is a step by step description of our final winter prep.
Step 1: Install entrance reducers. We like to do this earlier in October when the bees are not yet clustered and the probability that we’ve entrapped a mouse is really low. The entrance reducers are primarily to keep the rodents out of the hive. We like to use metal reducers, as they tend to be more effective. However, they take longer to install and we find that the wooden ones work as well, provided they are securely screwed in and not simply inserted with nothing to keep a persistant mouse from dislodging them.
Inserting entrance reducers – be sure to screw or nail it in place.
Step 2. Place an insulation chamber on top of the double deeps the colonies will wintering in. This is actually something we’ve just started doing last year after hearing an old-timer at the MBA meetings talk about it. We tried this on half of our colonies last year and discovered the following March that all the colonies that had insulated tops had larger clusters. This year we decided to do all of our colonies this way. We basically use older “retired” shallow or medium supers with hardware cloth cleated on the bottom to hold in the insulation. We’re using cedar shavings for insulation. To make sure the condensation can escape we create a chimney in the middle with a section of 3 inch PVC. We place the insulation chamber directly on top of the hive, place the inner cover on top of the insulation chamber and then place a twig on top of the inner cover to make sure there is a gap for air flow once we place the outer cover on.
Marie fills a shallow 3/4 full of cedar shavings to serve as an insulation chamber.
Shallow super with a screened bottom serves as an insulation chamber that sets on top of the hive.. The condensation chimney is made from a section of 3 inch PVC.
Step 3. Next we wrap each hive in roofing paper. We cut it down to size, wrap tight and secure the paper in place with a staple gun. The paper (at least in theory) should help warm the hive more on a sunny February afternoon and give the cluster a bit of mobility. Does it help? Seems to, though the few times in the past we’ve been too busy to get the hives wrapped we still had reasonable success. Another side benefit it is that it makes the hives a bit less visible from a distance. Once the leaves are down and the foliage all frozen away, a yard of bees even when way off the beaten path, seems to stick out like a sore thumb. Once wrapped they tend to be harder to spot, and hopefully less vulnerable to heartless human vandals and/or bee rustlers.
Wrapping the hive bodies in roofing paper.
Step 4. Once the hives are wrapped we make sure each upper hive body has an upper entrance. This gives the bees and upper entrance if the reduced bottom entrance gets clogged with dead bees and other debris. It also provides a bit of extra ventilation to get rid of condensation.
Drill an entrance in the upper hive body, using a 1/2 inch spade bit.
Step 5: We tack a small wood cleat directly under the upper entrance. This makes it easier for bees to land and re-enter and also helps hold the paper up against the hive right where the bees will be going in and out.
Nailing a landing cleat under the upper entrance.
Step 6. The last thing we do is insert debris boards under the bottoms (we used screened bottom boards) and then shove hives together in pairs on their stands. We build our stands with wolmanized 4×4’s so that there is a dead air space under the hives when they are centered side by side. During the Spring/Summers we push them apart again.
Hive stands from wolmanized 4×4’s. When pushed together the hives sit on a dead air space.
That’s it! Not much left to do again until early March when we go and see how they did.
All tucked in nice and cozy and ready for winter!
I have 2 hives to winter this year.
I have a large supper and a small supper with a gueen excluder between on both. they are full of stored honey.My question is -should I take the excluder out for the winter. I plan to split the strongest hive this spring if all goes well.I also plan to use 2 large supper from here on out.
Thanks for the info on wintering in Michigan, Im going to give it a try.
Greenhorn from coopersville,
You definitely don’t want a queen excluder between those supers. As the cluster moves up during the winter, the queen will get left below and that will be the end of your hive. I would suggest wintering in two deeps here in Michigan. They need to be packed with honey – so heavy you can barely tip it forward from the back.
I spoke to you brother Nate today at his Mother and Father in laws 50th. I told him my interest on raising honey bees. He told me, ‘I know just the person you should talk to about this’. I’d like talk to you more in depth about raising bees, and maybe visit your hives? Thank-you, Steve DeJong
Steve – wow, talk about being tardy… i just noticed your comment now, three years after the fact! Feel free to email or give me a call.
I’m am making insulation chambers for my 2 hives and am finding the cedar chips keep flaking out of the smallest size hardware material I could find. Would adding screening above the hardware material be OK?
Jan, a little bit of cedar always seems to fall through, but the bees will drag it out of the hive on the first warm day, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about it. In any case, adding screening would probably not be a problem. Just make sure your chimney is open so the bees can retain a warm dry brood nest.
I haven’t had a hive in about 15 years so this past May I purchased a nuc and it has been doing great. I read above that you make your bee blanket with the cedar in a shallow box and use a 3″ pvc pipe to ventilate it. My question is the 3″ pvc pipe does not go through the cover does it? The cover goes on top and the blanket and pvc pipe are covered up correct?
Second question, you said you winter with 2 deeps, I have 2 mediums on top of my 2 deeps and they should be full of honey, ( I have to go in tomorrow to see ). Anyway do I remove the two mediums and leave them with only the 2 deeps or should I winter them with at least one of the mediums. I also plan to make a candy board (which I have never used before) does that go under the cedar blanket and then put the cover on?
Last question, when do I remove the roofing paper?
Thanks From Someone who need advice….
Correct, the PVC does not go through the cover. How much honey you leave on depends on where you live. Here in Michigan we winter in 2 deeps and make sure the top one is jammed full of honey, and the bottom one the top parts of the frames are usually honey. It needs to be so heavy that you can’t pick it up without a couple of people!
If you put a candy board on yes, you would put it under whatever you use for top insulation. Once the bees eat thru the honey you want the candy right on top where they will be when they run out of honey.
Follow Up from going into my second year beekeeping in Michigan. I followed the suggestions for wintering my hive over its first winter by using a candy board, a quilt (cedar shavings) and wrapping in tar paper. They came through in fantastic shape and this year I was able to pull off about 7 gallons of honey from a medium and shallow super while still leaving a lot below in the deep bodies. I was even able to split off the hive because of swarming concerns and both hives are doing great.
Thanks for all the advice as I am starting to get ready to prepare for this next winter.
I do have a quick question, I want to raise my bees naturally with out chemicals and I have read a lot about essential oils and other methods of treating for mites, I purchased Apiguard product on recommendation from an organic beekeeper but I would like to find out if anyone has had experience with it like when to put it in to the hive etc.
Congrats on your wintering success Larry. You absolutely must monitor and treat for mites when needed if you want to winter your bees. We’ve had some success with Apiguard, if you follow the instructions and temperatures are within the recommended range. Mite Away Quick Strips also will knock back mites, though a bit harder on queens then Apiguard. Oxalic Acid is an excellent cleanup treatment in late fall after the brood rearing has diminished. There are plenty of articles online about these treatments. Randy Oliver’s website is a good place to start.
Hi my name is Brogan and I’m 11 years old and I live in Michigan. I’m looking to get a flow hive. I need two questions answered ASAP. The first one is how do I get bees and the second is what can I do to have a more successful winter for bees. Thank you for reading this and hopefully replying to my questions.
Brogan, we wrote an article a while back on how to buy bees. You can read it here. On successful wintering, first of all avoid the flow hive. Its an expensive but well-marketed gimmick. Buy some conventional equipment from Don Lam over in Holland, MI. Second, monitor and treat for varroa mites consistently over the bee season. You can find some good articles on the Bee Informed Partnership website on how to do that. Third, leave plenty of honey on your colony going into the winter. We like our double deep configuration to weigh around 140-150 pounds (includes equipment, bees, and honey). Hope this helps.
I would like to try your shavings and chimney insulation technique. Question: is it essential to prop open the cover with the cedar chips and chimney? my top super has an escape opening and I was under the impression this aided the condensation issue by allowing for airflow. if yes to the question, how much of a gap should I leave on the lid, and would it be the entire lid or just one side? Also, I have a screened bottom, and due to serious ant issues, the hive is 12″ off the ground on a stand. would enclosing the stand around the bottom creating the “dead air space” be sufficient, or should I put something under the screened bottom? If so, what would you recommend that would not increase humidity in the hive? Thanx!!
It wouldn’t hurt to put a small wedge on one end of the inner cover to cause the outer cover to be propped up a quarter inch or so. As to the screened bottom board, we typically place whiteboards in the screened bottoms over the winter, but we’ve also forgotten to do this at times and the colonies still seem to winter just fine. Most important factors in wintering here in Michigan is #1: make sure you knock back your mite levels late summer (August) so that your bees going in to winter are disease free. #2: make sure your colonies have enough capped honey to survive the winter – feed them if you have to. If you don’t address both of these you are almost certain the colony will be lost no matter how well you insulate.
Hi, I have always taken an interest in beekeeping. I am a complete newbie and want to try and get started. I’ve been doing tons of research but I feel as if I have large gaps in my knowledge. Do you have any recommendations of book or websites for beekeeping in Michigan. This was a great article for winterizing, but I am having trouble getting started. Thanks!
@Cayley I’d suggest you join a local bee club. You can find a list of Michigan Bee Clubs on the Michigan Beekeepers Association website: http://www.michiganbees.org/michigan-bee-clubs/
For the bottom you stated using hardware cloth. Is that basically just a metal screen purchased at the hardware store? I’ve read others using canvas cloth. Would one be better than the other?
Yes, hardware cloth can be purchased at your local hardware. I’ve used canvas cloth as well. Either works fine, but hardware cloth will last longer.
I spoke to a commercial bee keeper and he did absolutely none of the wintering methods you talk about. He put the hive on the south side of a barn. He told me if snow covers the entrance the bees will make a tunnel so they can leave the hive. I put my hive in a sheltered area under my deck and gave the bees sugar water along with honey in the frames. I opened and found the bees to be alive and balled together. They were very lithargic and not moving around which I expected.
@Tom, yeah if you provide your bees with shovels they will tunnel through the snow! LOL. ALL of what is described here will be in vain if you miss the two points in the second paragraph. e.g., make sure your bees are healthy (knock back mite populations before they raise their winter bees in late summer / early autumn) and have enough nutrition. If you fail on either of these counts you will be buying bees in the spring. On the other hand, if you have plenty of healthy bees and plenty of nutrition your bees will have a reasonable chance at surviving without any insulation and/or wrapping.
First time bee keeper in Detroit here. I am getting mentally prepared for wintering bees, doing some research and I am wondering what I can do to ensure they have enough food to last the winter if they haven’t established enough honey in the super yet (it’s still early I know…)? My concern lies in the fact that we got a late start because our nuc as delayed. The hive has only been established since June 1st and I’m wondering if they should have stored more honey by now.
We supplement our colonies with sugar syrup late summer / early fall if they haven’t stored enough honey for winter. A colony established on June 1 in Michigan should have sufficient stores to winter by autumn. If not, there could be other issues including mites, or a poor performing queen.
I am on second my attempt at beekeeping this year here in mid-Michigan. Last year both of my hives were dead in late November. I was talking to someone who placed an additional shallow super full of honey below the two deeps as an additional barrier/insultation on the bottom. What are your thoughts?
@Jeremy, here in Michigan, the two deep configuration is sufficient for wintering, provided the top super is full of honey. In the future when you lose a colony, you need to figure out why your bees died. Meghan Milbrath has written an excellent article on this. Do you monitor for mites regularly during the bee season, and manage the mite levels in your hives? That is your biggest challenge to wintering bees. If you have sick bees it doesn’t matter how much honey they have!
First time bee keeping, I’m in the process of starting bees, I was looking for more local bee keepers to get my bees or capturing the bees. What would be the best method?
@Sadiq best approach would be for you to join a local bee club. You’ll likely meet somebody selling local nucs or splits in the spring.
First year beekeeper here in Grand Rapids! Wondering when/which month do you wrap and insulate your hives? Is it weather dependent?
@Krystle, we wrap them in black roofing paper in November. That’s mainly so they absorb the heat on sunny winter days and can break cluster / fly when conditions allow. We do insulate the tops, but that’s it. Way more important than wrapping is making sure you’re managing the mites, ensuring they have plenty of nutrition and are well-ventilated.
I thought I would try wool insulation (only because I have a bit left over from a project).
What problems would that make for my hive if I put it between the top cover and inner cover?