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Preparing the hive for the Winter

As the temperature starts to drop and the leaves start to fall it’s time to prepare the hives for winter.

A beekeeper assesses the hive and checks whether the bees have good food supplies.

This year has been very strange for bees. The non-existent winter and mild spring enabled many plants to flower and fruit unusually early here.

But this seems to have meant that the crops and flowers finished fruiting early too.

Consequently our bees have been left with less foraging.

We believe this has led to one colony having European Foul Brood. This disease strikes weakened hives.

But we tackled it securely and the bees are doing well.

When we assessed this hive a few weeks ago it was clear that their food supplies were low.

So we have been feeding them for about three weeks. They have consumed plenty of sugar water. So at the weekend, we took the feeder away.

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Meanwhile it was a good time to add insulation to the hive.

Through the winter, bees continue to sustain the hive temperature at approximately 34 degrees. Bee keepers should avoid disturbing the hive and releasing warmth.

The bees themselves reduce their activity and use various strategies to keep the hive warm.

They use body tremoring, they block holes or cracks with propylis, and this includes reducing the hive entrance if necessary. They focus themselves in a concentrated dense cluster and use similar techniques to penguins where they take turns to move to the centre of the cluster so they don’t get cold on the edge.

As bee keepers we provide foam insulation.

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Other winter precautions can include taking care to secure the hive against wind with straps and guy ropes.

In one of our other hives we’ve woven a screen from bramble and raspberry stick prunings. It helps to shield the hive entrance from any snow glare. The bees can be fooled by bright light into exploring in unsuitably cold temperatures which can lead to high losses.

We have also used a jute sack of fine wood shavings to provide insulation too.

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13 comments on “Preparing the hive for the Winter

  1. circusgardener
    October 15, 2014

    A fascinating post, very informative. I hope your precautions help ensure the hives survive through whatever the winter weather throws at them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jpeggytaylor
    October 15, 2014

    So interesting to learn how your bees keep warm in winter. Such amazing creatures, bees – and so important!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rambling Woods
    October 17, 2014

    Very interesting…Hope they do well

    Like

  4. lizard100
    October 18, 2014

    Fingers crossed!

    Like

  5. Emma Sarah Tennant
    October 19, 2014

    Glad to hear your bees have well prepared for winter. I agree this autumn has confused bees and beekeepers alike, and I hope our bees have found more forage to replace the stores they’re using up flying out and about.

    Do you strap your hives down every year? I visited a beekeeper in Iceland last year (it was my favourite beekeeping adventure ever http://missapismellifera.com/2013/11/03/beekeeping-in-iceland/) and they strap the hives down there. Icelandic bees (and Icelandic beekeepers) are lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lizard100
      October 19, 2014

      We do. The wind whips around here pretty badly and the flatness adds to the force.
      Today we watching a bumble pollinating new runner bean flowers its 19th October! It certainly is confusing.
      Iceland. Amazing. A friend of mine aants to keep bees there one day!

      Like

  6. Julia Davis-Coombs
    October 22, 2014

    Have you got a solid cover board between the brood box and the foam insulation (to prevent nibbling)?

    Liked by 1 person

    • lizard100
      October 22, 2014

      Yes we do. But its perspex. We used perspex to increase the inspection possibilities and it adds more insulation.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Kim in Fiji
    October 22, 2014

    Good luck to your hive for the winter.

    Liked by 1 person

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