Bee hives winter update for 22 February 2015

We had a “warm” 30ºF day, so I wandered out to see how the bee hives winter survival is going.

Bee hives in winter

  • This is a quick look to see how my bee hives in winter are doing
  • This time of year (Feb-March) in upstate NY is when many bee hives starve – the winter bee cluster may have eaten through all of the honey that we left for them in the fall, so it’s important to get out there and check on them, even if it’s cold
  • In 20-30ºF (-7 to -1ºC) weather, if you open the hive gently & quickly peek and close it promptly, bees won’t fly up (and later freeze), so you can peek in without much disturbance to the bees
  • In 40º+ F (4º+ C) weather, bees are likely to fly up, so you may want to make sure it’s over 48ºF (9ºC) which gives the bees a warm enough day that they have a chance of surviving and making it back to the hive.
  • It’s inappropriate in our cold weather to feed bees syrup – the cold liquid in their stomach would chill the bees and they would freeze. Also the excess moisture would cause condensation in the hive and, as the saying goes, “cold doesn’t kill bees, but cold wet bees die.”
  • So in the winter, we feed bees dry cane sugar or fondant. It is not the ideal food for them, which is honey. But they can eat one of these emergency dry carbohydrate sources and survive until spring when their nutrition improves as they begin to forage from flowers.
  • Both of my Langstroth hives are taking the sugar, one more than the other.
  • Even though my Kenyan top bar hive has honey available, I worried about the winter cluster being able to move horizontally with such cold weather and decided to feed them some granulated cane sugar. I ran it under comb on the edge of the winter cluster.
  • I opened a second upper ventilation cork hole on the Kenyan top bar hive – there’s frozen condensation on the wall, but I didn’t apply mouse guards because I didn’t have any at hand.
  • And mouse was out and about in the bee yard, so I worried about that for a bit.

Happy Beekeeping everybody!

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