Autumn is here! This signals a drastic change for beekeepers, as we are less able to effectively inspect our hives. Cooler temperatures are the culprit of this and I am often asked “what temperature is too cold to inspect a hive?”
The short answer is – somewhere around 60 degrees or warmer. But there’s a bit more to consider, so let’s dive in a bit deeper.
I often question new beekeepers about why an inspection right now might be necessary. Temps are cooling off, disabling us from being able to inspect our hives whenever we want, but we often don’t need to be inspecting as often IF we prepared our hives well for winter leading up to this point. If our hives have plenty of food (honey) and if their Varroa mite counts are low, then we really don’t need to keep interrupting them with routine hive inspections anymore. However, I do understand what it’s like to be a new beekeeper and how exciting it can be to check on your beehives.
Inspecting a hive at temperatures cooler than 60 degrees can cause some problems. No doubt, the bees are likely going to be more agitated. They work hard to keep their brood area at roughly 93 degrees to allow for optimal growth of new bees (brood). Inspecting a hive and pulling out frames of brood when it’s cooler than 60 degrees is interpreted as invasive to the bees and you’ll likely reap the consequences.
Inspecting a hive is different than quickly lifting the lid to fill your feeder frame with more sugar syrup. Refilling your feeder frame takes 30 seconds and doesn’t’ require you to pull out frames so it can be continued as long as temperatures remain above freezing, otherwise, the syrup freezes which disables the bees from utilizing it.
I am keeping a close eye on the weather reports. I may inspect my hives one more time if temperatures cooperate, but I may not! However, I feel good that my bees are in prime condition for winter. I left them ~80 lbs of honey to get through winter. I also monitored my Varroa mite levels and all of my hives are below the 3 percent threshold that is recommended for maintaining good colony health. It’s sad to think I might not get to enjoy another hive inspection for a while, but it gives me something to look forward to next spring!
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!