What can I do to help my bees get through winter?
The fate of our bees today depends on their status back in August. Questions to ask yourself might be:
– What was your last Varroa mite count? If it was under about 3% (this number is debatable) the last time you checked, then your bees are at a higher chance of surviving winter. If your counts were a bit higher in early August, let’s hope you made the choice to reduce the mites. I used Apiguard (active ingredient is thymol) which knocked the mites back to a threshold below 3% that I felt good about. This decision, to lower mite levels if needed, is an important one for beekeepers. Our bees struggle to fight mites, particularly over winter when the bee population intentionally drops but the mite population increases.
– How much honey did you leave your bees? If your last harvest was in early August, and you left behind about eight deep frames of honey, then your bees have an additional factor working in their favor this winter. What’s also interesting on this topic is the weather trend we had this year. Our summer was longer than normal, with temps up into the 60’s even in mid-November. These temperatures keep the bees active longer than normal, consuming more of their winter resources (honey that you left them), but with little to forage from because most blooms are finished by this time. Long story short, I am thankful I left my bees with a bit more honey than normal. There are options for emergency food sources, like candy boards. Check out my blog on this topic!
Maybe you are panicking a bit, running memories through your head over and over again – “Wait, what was my mite count last time I checked? When did I even check last? How much honey did I leave them? Was it eight deep frames?” Truth be told, there just isn’t much you can do at this very second to “save your bees” if you didn’t follow good fall practices. I wouldn’t recommend cracking open your hive in frigid temperatures to check on them. Besides, even if you noticed signs of poor health, there isn’t much that can be implemented now to reverse it.
This might sound a bit like a doomsday story, but I like to look at it differently. Beekeepers must be proactive, making good choices now so that our hives are in better health three months down the road. We, beekeepers, cannot predict the future, but we can influence it by the choices we make today! (Wow, that might be a good practice for other aspects of life!)
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!