Monday, October 28, 2013

Battening down the hives

We've battened down the hives for the winter.

This is a rare photo of both Eric and me working the hives.   Lily is in charge of the camera during bee inspections, which is great because it keeps the honey off the camera and we get these great pics, too.

We had small hives this year.  We started with only one - our winter survivor, which we split in the spring.  Then we added a small hive from a cut out in the summer.  So, we've got three small hives going into winter.  

Even though we haven't had any frosts yet this season, there were no drones in the hives.   These girls are getting ready for winter.   Both of the lang hives had chimneyed their honey.   They had brood in the five southern frames below and honey in the five southern frames in the box above.  All the rest of the frames were empty.  I took all of the empty frames out and packed all their honey in the lower box.   The lower box is now packed full of stores, but each of those hives is going into the winter with only one box.  That's actually all the honey that the surviving hive went through last winter anyway, but I don't think that's enough, so in a few weeks, I'll put an empty super on each hive and put a whole lot of bee candy in it for the winter.   It will insulate things a bit and provide enough extra feed to get them through the winter. 

The cutout hive is in the horizontal hive, which is the hive that died over the winter.   My problem last year with that hive was that I hadn't tucked them in enough last fall.  They had too much space to heat. This year I took every empty frame away and left them only the seven frames they had brood or stores in.  Eric cut me a very thick piece of foam insulation and I pushed it in close - turning that part of the horizontal hive into a quasi-nuc.  I also put a bottom board in to close up the bottom.   I'll pack a good section of the top with bee candy in a couple of weeks.

The bees were busy propolizing everything they could to seal it up.   Here they are closing up the ventilation hole in the inner cover.  We had to put screens over the holes this year because the mice kept finding their way in. 

We've reduced all the entrances to the smallest hole to keep the mice from coming in the bottoms, too. 

I scraped a bunch of propolis off the frames I took off the hives and gave it back to the bees, who seemed thrilled to get it.   This distracted them while I was reducing their entrance. 

Since our winter weather is notoriously variable and often can vary by 60 degrees or more within a week, I'll be tucking some skirting of some sort [probably plastic sheeting] around the bottoms of the hives and putting some insulation around the sides facing the breeze.  If it gets really, really cold, I'll drape the hives with a blanket on three sides, but that always encourages mildew so I'm hesitant to keep them on very long.

We didn't get any honey for us this fall at all, but if we can get all three of these hives through the winter, then we should get loads of honey next year.  Fingers crossed. 


  1. Good luck with your overwintering. At least having 3 hives improves your chances. I'm really nervous this Winter only having one hive...

  2. Hope all your efforts pay off with 3 healthy, prospering hives.

  3. Good luck. I'm overwintering one hive (my first year) and I'm going to use some of your ideas. Thanks!

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