Hives that survived through the new year were likely low on Varroa mites going into the cold season. On the contrary, I’ve noticed that hives with high Varroa levels going into winter often die before the new year. So, pat yourself on the back if your hives are still alive right now! You can tell a hive is still alive if bees are flying in and out of the entrance on a slightly warmer-than-normal day.
But winter is far from over. Our bees may have survived the beginning of winter and the effects that come from high Varroa mite levels, but they are still very susceptible to starvations if:
- The hive wasn’t left with at least 60-80 lbs of honey going into winter.
- The hive’s population is large, thus requiring more food stores to feed the hive through the full winter.
Both of these things are hard to gauge in the middle of winter, especially if you are unsure how much honey you left the bees. To play it safe, I encourage beekeepers to place a candy board on the top bars of their top box (under the lid) just to be safe. You can also see if your bees have eaten through their food source by lifting the top cover on a warmer-than-normal day. The hive likely needs more food if bees are active in the top box.
I placed candy boards, like the one pictured above, on all three of my hives in January as a preventative measure. It’s made of sugar, a little corn syrup, and water and functions as an emergency food source in case the bees eat through all the honey. It’s interesting to open the hives on a later date when it’s warmer outside and see if the bees actually consumed any of the candy board. They are cheap and easy to make, and I have a recipe for them that you can find here.
Getting your bees through the winter to this point is a major milestone, make sure to keep them fed for the rest of this season! Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!