Winter’s Comin’, y’all!! It’s time to start your cold weather prep around the homestead. Preparing your beehives should be at the top of your to-do list at this time of year. Knowing how to keep honeybees alive and healthy throughout the winter is crucial for sustainable beekeeping. The bees do this pretty well on their own, but you have to do your part as their landlord to keep the hive in good shape and to prep them for the cold months ahead. In my full post on The Frugal Chicken, I go into detail about these 5 things that you should know before overwintering honeybees.
This article is an overview what you will find in my post on The Frugal Chicken. There is also a list of beekeeping resources at the bottom of this page that you will want to check out.
5 Things You Should Know About Overwintering Honeybees
My husband and I lost a hive or two in our first year of beekeeping because the learning curve was much larger than we had anticipated. Do your research, seek out a mentor, and be prepared before the winter weather hits so that you can avoid the same losses that we experienced.
1. How Do You Feed Honeybees in the Winter?
When the flowers and foliage die off in the late fall and winter seasons, you will need to supplement the diet of your bees. Are you aware of the different ways that you can feed your bees in the winter for optimum honey production and to help them save their energy and stay warm?
2. How Much Honey Should You Leave for the Bees?
Find out how much honey you need to leave for your bees in the winter. It is vitally important that you leave enough honey for the bees to eat throughout the season. The last thing that abeekeeper wants is a starving colony.
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3. How Do You Keep a Honeybee Colony Strong Over the Winter?
You will need to do periodic hive checks to be sure that your bees are healthy. Do you know what pests and diseases to look for in your hives? Do you know how to treat/prevent those pests and illnesses?
4. What are the Best Ways to Weatherproof and Winterize a Hive?
Honeybees instinctively huddle together in clusters to keep themselves and the queen warm during the winter, but there are multiple things that you can do to help them out. See what measures you should take to keep your bees safe from the cold weather and predators.
5. When is it Okay to Open a Bee Hive in the Winter?
Opening a hive when it is cold outside causes the bees to expend more energy in an attempt to warm themselves and the queen. It is important to know when it is safe to open the hive to lessen any negative effects on the colony.
To open or not to open…that is the question…
Now you can get started with your honeybee hive management prep for the winter!
I wouldn’t dare give you my suggestions for overwintering honeybees without giving you quality resources to apply those suggestions!
Go through this list of beekeeping resources (books, courses, products for the hive, DIY tutorials, etc.) to see what will work best for you and your hives!
Honeybee Hive Management / Overwintering Honeybees Resources
- Backyard Beekeeper– This is the perfect book to get you started if you are new to beekeeping! I keep this one in my home library to reference throughout the year.
- Hive Management: A Seasonal Guide for Beekeepers (Storey’s Down-To-Earth Guides)-This is a great book to reference for seasonal hive management.
- BeekThinking Overwintering Series– I LOVE BeeThinking videos! Check out their overwintering video series!
- Apiary Record Keeping– The Homestead Mama Planning Pack has Apiary Record sheets tucked inside.
Beekeeping DIY Tutorials
- How to Make Sugar Water to feed your bees when the outside temperature is above freezing.
- Sugar Cake/Sugar Board Tutorial to feed your honeybees in the winter when it is too cold forth feed
- How to Make Grease Patties that double as food and mite control!
- How to Make a Quilt Box to help keep your bees warm inside the hive.
Honeybee Hive Management Supplies and Tools
- Hive Beetle Trap– Hive beetles can cause honeybee colonies to starve or to abandon their hive altogether (the first option is most feasible in the winter). Using traps can lower the number of adult beetles that can lay eggs within your hives. You can read more about hive beetles treatment and prevention on the Carolina Honeybees website.
- 100% Tung Oil to waterproof the walls of the hive
- Entrance Reducer to keep harmful animals (like mice and beetles) out of the hive
- Smoker – This is a MUST HAVE item for beekeeping at any time of year! The smoker is used to calm bees when you are checking the hive.
- Solid Bottom Board– This one is debated among beekeepers. Some like to use their screened bottom board year-round to reduce the moisture level in the hive. Others prefer to use a solid bottom board during the winter to decrease the cold air and pests that enter the hive. I suggest trying solid and screened bottom boards to see what will work best for you and you’re hives.
None of these listed resources are more valuable than tapping into your local beekeeping association and finding a seasoned beekeeper to serve as your mentor.
If you need information on finding a local beekeeping association, search online or call your county’s extension agent. That should point you in the right direction!