Winter is creeping by and right now your bees are mostly clustering to stay warm throughout the day and night. If the temperature gets above 50 degrees they might take advantage of the warm break to take a cleansing flight. Now that the winter solstice is over your Queen will begin slowly laying a few more eggs each day and increasing daily as spring draws near. Here are three things every beekeeper should be doing to help their bees survive these chilly months.
Clean the Hive Entrance
The sad truth is, many bees die in the winter. Some beekeepers notice a large build-up of dead bees that block the entrances to their hives. We use mouse guards in the winter and these holes can quickly get plugged by the debris of bees dying off during the cold weather months. Make sure you take your hive tool and clean out the entrance so that on warmer days your bees can get out for a cleansing flight.
Feed Your Bees
This is also a good time to heft your hives to check for honey stores. If they seem light, you should feed your bees. There are several options for feeding during the winter. The first option is pure cane sugar poured onto the inner cover. Another option is fondant which can be placed directly on the frames of the brood box. You can also make use of the remaining Christmas candy canes and lay those on top of the brood frames. The bees love the sugar and peppermint combination. For more information on winter feeding, see our previous blog Winterize your Hives (part 2)
Treat for Mites
From Late November until early January the hive is mostly broodless and this is an ideal time to treat for varroa mites with an oxalic acid dribble. There are many resources to learn more about Oxalic Acid but one of the best is Randy Oliver’s article in Scientific Beekeeping: Oxalic dribble tips.
We hope your bees are clustering happily and make it through the winter!