It might be fall, but beekeepers are preparing for winter NOW. This might seem early, but I have learned that successful beekeepers are always thinking two months in advance. If you wait until winter to ensure your hives are ready for winter…. well, you are frankly far too late.
Right now I am keeping my eye on the weather report, looking for warm days to continually feed my bees with a thick sugar syrup to get them fat and happy going into the long winter. I use old milk jugs and fill them nearly full with sugar. Next I add hot water until they are full and shake them to dissolve the sugar. I use in hive feeders, which will hold a full gallon of my sugar syrup. Why feed sugar syrup? There is very little natural nectar available this time of year. There will be next to nothing once the sage and other fall blooms are finished. Feeding my bees sugar syrup gives them access to a food source when there isn’t a natural one available.
Right now I am also prepping my hive equipment to ensure my bees have proper ventilation during the cold winter months. It might seem counterintuitive to give my hive boxes ventilation when it is snowing and cold outside, but not doing this can be detrimental. Honey bees will cluster in the winter, creating heat to stay alive. They will keep their cluster at about 93 degrees, even with negative temperatures outside! The heat they create will rise to the top of the hive and will either escape through the top of the hive (if the beekeeper provided ventilation) or will condense and rain back down on the bees. The later option will kill a hive. Bees can handle the cold, but they cannot handle the moisture.
It is our job as beekeepers to ensure our hives have ventilation. You can do this in many different ways. One way is to crack the outer cover of your hive, propping it up just an 1/8th of an inch or so. I do this using popsicle sticks as shown in the picture below. Others will drill small holes in their supers near the top where it meets the top cover. Just make sure you do something. Otherwise you will open your hive in early spring to find it covered in mold from all the moisture build-up.
This is an important tasks to complete this time of the year now that temperatures are dropping.
Beekeeping and procrastinating don’t go together. Always be thinking two months in advance!
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!