Though summer is the honey bee’s busiest season, they work hard all year long. When winter comes around, honey bees put a lot of effort into keeping the hive warm and making sure everyone—especially the queen—is safe, cozy, and well-fed. Beekeepers must also work hard to prepare their colonies for the cold. You’ve done your job to make sure your hives thrive throughout spring and summer, and now it’s time to help them survive winter. Keep your colonies warm and safe all season long with these three tips for how to winterize a beehive.
Insulation and Ventilation
Honey bees need warm temperatures to be able to move around and reach the honey within their hive. While your honey bees will work together to keep the entire colony warm, you can help them by insulating the hive. Reduce hive entrances to prevent excess cold air from entering the hive. You can also wrap your hives, install foam insulation boards, or place wind blocks around your apiary for extra insulation. Just be careful not to overdo it. Too much insulation can lead to damp air, which can cause mildew and other problems within the hive. As you fortify your hives for the upcoming weather, make sure you leave an opening at both the top and bottom of the hive so that air can flow throughout.
Remove Excess Hive Space
When there’s less space to keep warm, your honey bees don’t have to spend as much energy heating it. One of the best tips for how to winterize a beehive is to get rid of unnecessary space within the hive before winter comes. After your honey harvest, remove your extra honey supers to make the interior space smaller. You should also pay attention to how you arrange your beehive frames. Make sure your honey bees will have easy access to their honey as they cluster up to stay warm throughout the winter.
Unfortunately, winter doesn’t always chase away the pests that intrude upon your hives. Mice, mites, and other threats will try to creep into your hives to take advantage of the warmth and resources. Keep them out by taking pest control measures ahead of time. Place hardware cloth, mesh, or an entrance reducer over your hive entrance to keep larger critters, like mice, out of the hive. You can help prevent varroa mites and other smaller intruders by placing sticky boards and other traps in the hive. You should also take time to treat the colony for mites before winter arrives.
So, how do you prepare your apiary for winter? Give us your best tips and advice in the comments below.