For beekeepers, fall signals an end to all of the work of summer. But for those who live in regions that experience winter, there are still a few more tasks to do before settling down with a cup of tea in front of the fireplace. Remember, you actions now will help your bees survive the cold.
To keep you on track, a task list (checklist) is valuable.
- Check that there are sufficient honey stores – if there is not enough honey, provide them with sugar syrup
- Clean honey supers following extraction – place empty, sticky frames out for the bees to clean
- Raise inner cover slighty – this helps with ventilation (we use popsicle sticks at each corner) and reduces the amount of condensation that may occur inside the hive
- Tilt the beehive slightly forward – this helps keep rain/ice/snow from entering the hive, also any snow that melts on the landing board will melt and drip away from the hive entrance
- Place a rock or brick on top of outer cover – this will keep this in place in case your area has blustery weather
- Create a wind break – stacking bales of hay (or other large objects) on the prevailing wind side of the hives
- Remove any medications – treatment for mites should be done after honey supers have been removed
- Mouse-proof the hives – mice will seek out the warmth of the hives, chew through comb and frames, poop in the hive as well as bring in nesting materials
- Remove any empty supers – the reduces the volume that the bees have to keep warm
- Place an entrance reducer at the entrance – helps keep warmth in the hive
- Wrap the hive – this provides a layer of insulation, but don’t seal the entrance or inner/top cover as the hive needs to be well ventilated
As beekeepers, we all want our colonies to survive the winter. Your actions can help increase the likelihood of that happening. A warm, dry hive with plenty of honey stores has the best chance of making it through a cold winter.
Keep in mind that cold weather (including snow) can happen during fall. If that happens, don’t panic. Keep working on the list and be sure to keep the entrance of the hive clear from debris, such as dead bees, fallen leaves, or snow.
As you gain experience in beekeeping, you will become more confident in your fall checklist. In fact, you may even have a few more items to add based upon your region. Don’t feel guilty if you have not done all of these tasks, there is still time before the full force of winter is upon us. But remember that your actions now will help improve the chances of your bees surviving a blustery season.