Thank you to Thomas Hopkins of Beehive State LLC. for providing us with the following information on winter prep for your bees.
The thoughtful “beek” gets to decide how to keep bees in their apiary. These are merely suggestions and information about treatments and strategies. All, none or a few of the treatments may be used. Or, even better, assess and then decide what treatments are needed. Remember, how you keep bees effects other beeks! Think about it.
Fall Management and Winter Preparation
- Feeding and treatments to prepare bees,
- Hive ventilation,
- Bee populations,
- Storing Equipment
How Much Honey?
- 60 – 90 pounds of honey is required to over winter bees.
- 1+ full deep or 1 1/2 mediums
- Bees kept in deeps require two deeps total. Bees kept in mediums require three total.
Feeding and Treatments to Prepare Bees
A healthy colony will need 65 – 90 pounds of honey to overwinter. If the colony is light on stores, feeding the bees will assist in survival
Fall feeding helps the bees condense the brood chamber and move down to the bottom box.
Fall feeding consists of two parts sugar, one part water. Thicker syrup mimics honey.
A pollen patty: the bees will store this if they have not stored enough pollen. Generally, pollen is abundant in the fall. You could put some in the hives as insurance.
Emergency feeding is sometimes required if the colony becomes light in early to mid winter.
Using one of these dry feeding methods allows bees to be fed without the introduction of moisture to the hive.
Liquid feed left in the hive all winter can cause humidity and unwanted condensation and can result in damp or wet bees.
Varroa Mite, Nosema and Tracheal Mite
Post Harvest Varroa Treatments
After harvest is the time to apply harder chemical treatments for varroa.
Many treatments are temperature sensitive. Follow the application label for the most safe and highest varroa kill. Treatment applications may require 42 or more days. Do not leave on past application requirements.
Nosema is a microsporidian disease that can spread during winter confinement. Fumigillin can reduce incidence of nosema.
Nosevit is a “natural treatment.” Click here for more information.
Test before treating. A 400x microscope is needed.
Tracheal Mite Control: Grease Patties
- 4.4 pounds (1814.4 g) of granulated sugar (sucrose)
- 3 oz (88.8 ml) of corn oil
- 1.5 pounds (680.4) of vegetable shortening (Crisco)
- 1 pound (463.4 g) of hone
- 1/2 pound (226.8 g) of mineral salt (pink color) approximately $7.00 – $8.00 for 50 pounds from a feed store
- 2.2 ounces (65 ml) of wintergreen oil
One batch will treat about 8 to 10 hives, depending on number of brood chambers, size of patties, etc. We place five small patties (about 2 oz. each) on top of each brood chamber and a 1/2″ (1.27 cm) roll across the entrance, about 3/4″ (1.9 cm) back in, otherwise rain will wash it away).
These are applied in may ways. Click here for more information.
A healthy dry winter cluster will condense further and work its way up into the box of honey above.
Results of Poor Ventilation
- Proper ventilation is one of the main ingredients of winter survival.
- Wet bees meet their demise and mold spores begin to form.
- Bees manage cold temperatures very well, as long as they stay dry.
- Tilting the back of the hive forward and shimming the inner cover up, with popsicle sticks helps the bees manage the winter climate inside the hive.
- Windbreaks are equally important
- Don’t forget mouse guards/entrance reducers!
- Windbreaks are beneficial for temperature regulation in windy areas and helps with proper humidity in the hive.
- Bees winter better in a locale that gets sunshine.
- Consider that when wrapping or insulating hives, honey consumption will increase, because of warmer internal temperatures.
- Take winter losses in the fall.
- Combine weak to strong colonies in early fall, rather than overwintering them.
- Strengthen weak hive with capped brood from a hive that is still actively rearing brood is another option.
- Be careful not to over manipulate colonies and cause unneeded stress in the fall.
- A good population going into winter is 25,000-30,000 bees clustered tight, on 5-6 frames in a deep.
Wax Moth Challenges
- Wax Moth is part of beekeeping. It will appear, at some point. Look for cocoons, grubs, webbing and tunneling.
- Freezing frames for 48 hrs helps slow or stop wax moth. Freeze a few frames at a time if space is an issue. After freezing, store in clear containers or bags.
Air, light and cold temps are the best control.
- Wax Moth is attracted to left over pollen and larval castings in the comb. This is a rich protein source. Comb that has not had brood in it, is less likely to get infested.
How to Store Drawn Comb and Equipment
One example of how to best defense against wax moth is in the book Backyard Beekeeping by Kim Flottum.
- Crystals (PBD)
- Cedar Chips
- Wax Moth Lures
- Temps below 40 degrees
- Napthalene (moth balls) should be used
Be a proactive, not a reactive beekeeper.
Learn what will happen next according to the calendar and how it corresponds with bee biology in the local climate. Be patient and as prepared as soon as possible for the next step or situation.
Developer – Natalee Bloomquist Thompson
One thought on “Winter Prep for Your Bees”
Steve Sweet says:
Chemical protection of bee equipment should be used as a last resort in an integrated pest management program.
Clemson University, a highly authoritative and respected source on beekeeping, reports the following:
are two chemicals available in the US to control wax moths,
paradichlorobenzene (PDB) and aluminum phosphide (Phostoxin).
Beekeepers are strongly advised to air out stored chemically exposed
supers for a day or two away from PCB prior to placement on colonies
because it is toxic to bees at high concentrations.
which contain naphthalene are not registered for wax moth control and
are illegal for use in protecting beekeeping equipment.