With the cold temps upon us it was time to get the bees ready for winter. These are simple chores and I didn’t even use a smoker as my disturbance of the hives was quite limited. Cooler temps mean condensation inside the hive and if allowed to drip on the bees or the brood it will freeze them. So the first thing I did was to prop up the hives from behind so they tilt forward. In this way any condensation that forms will run to the front of the hive and drop down the side instead of falling on the bees.
I also closed up the bottom of the hives. I use a screened bottom board for mite control and better ventilation. In the winter I slide a board in the back of the bottom board that closes off the screened portion to tighten up the airflow and make it easier for the bees to keep the hive warm. I also stagger each box (the second box is slide back a bit from the front of the bottom box) to allow easier access to the upper part of the hive when the hive is busy and packed with bees during the summer. In the winter I slide the boxes back together, again, to tighten things up so the bees can keep the hives warm.
Did you know honeybees maintain a temp of at least 90 degrees in the hive. This is done with a vibrating motion of their wings. On those cold, barren winter days when it might only get to 25 degrees for a high and I’m sitting in my favorite chair with a good book to read I often think of that tightly bunched cluster of bees, vibrating away to maintain what amounts to a 65 degree difference with the outside world. Down right amazing!
To wrap things up I pulled the cover off each hive and added some more pollen supplement. They had already slicked up the first small batch I had placed across the top bars of the hive and so I added more. In the High Desert of Central Oregon there is a limited supply of pollen late in the season and adding a pollen supplement can help them prepare for winter, or so I am told. This is the first time I have tried doing this, but it is supposed to reduce the stress on the bees and improve their chances of making in through the winter. Pollen contains the amino acids the bees require to stay alive and function properly. The bees need more than just a honey supply to get through the winter.
In the next couple weeks I will pick a nice warm day to do a complete hive inspection, take some notes on condition, numbers, mites and honey supply and write another update. Getting hives through the winter is THE challenge for beekeepers and that challenge is now at hand.