How I winterize my bee hives

21 Nov

Propolising the hive for winter

It’s quite simple really. My winterizing philosophy is a three-pronged approach; the holy trinity of hive survival, if you will, and it goes like this:

  1. Go into winter strong: If a hive is weak, I’ll combine it with another before November using the newspaper method. If I only have one hive, I’ll combine with another bee friend. If none of the above work, then I’ll feed sugar syrup for October and November. And I DEFINITELY overwinter with 3 deeps. See my earlier post for details on overwintering with 3 deep boxes.
  2. Reduce the entrance: Using one of those wooden entrance reducers, I’ll close up the front door a bit so that the girls can better defend themselves from opportunists.
  3. Allow for ventilation: I’m of the mind that the bees best regulate their hive themselves and so my job is to allow them this ability. In other words, I leave a crack in the cover that sits on top of the screened top board and otherwise don’t insulate or tape the hive. This enables the girls to add or remove propolis depending on how much ventilation they want throughout the winter. In Albuquerque, as our temperatures vary greatly from November to March, this gives the bees the chance to decide what they need at any given time.

And that’s it. No fancy heating pads or blankets over here, because I want to support bee genetics that don’t rely on human intervention to survive the winter. It’s a bit of tough love perhaps, but my hope (for the bees) is that this non-interventionist approach builds local bee genetics that are gentle with humans but tough when it comes to surviving mites and winter.

Good luck, girls! May the strongest hives survive.

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4 Responses to “How I winterize my bee hives”

  1. Renee November 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    Here’s to successful hives in the Spring and letting nature take its course throughout the Winter months.

  2. Jessie Brown November 21, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    I’m taking notes for my first langstroth year next year….

    • michal November 27, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

      I’m worried and wondering if my bees are too much in the shade to survive the winter. I have them mostly surrounded by hay bales and some insulation and plastic rain proofing on top.
      Am I suffocating them? I worry now about the ventilation aspect. I’ve seen a number of dead bees tossed out of the hive.
      Maybe i’m loving them to death?

      • mistress beek November 28, 2011 at 9:59 am #

        Hi Michal,

        Sounds like an interesting situation and I must admit I don’t know the best answer for your particular location. But I wonder whether taking off the rain proofing would give the hive a way to let moisture escape and rise out the top of the hive?

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