Articles

Beekeeping In December

Excerpted from: Winterizing Bee Hives

Beehives in winter The end of December marks a major change in your bees. Their goals change and the risk of starvation increases. Beekeepers are making plans for the following year, but there are a couple things a beekeeper can still do with their bees. While it may not seem like much is going on in the hive, the bees are quietly waiting for the end of the month.

The shortest day of the year is December 21st. Starting on the 22nd, the queen will start laying more and more eggs. Somehow, in the darkness of the hive, the queen knows it is time to start the process of getting the hive ready for spring. She will continue to lay more and more eggs all the way through spring.

Winter is here and the bees are in official survival mode and are doing all they can to conserve resources. There isn’t much a beekeeper can do for the bees now, so you can turn your attention towards other bee activities.

Move A Beehive

Graphic of bee in winter Winter is a great time to move a hive of bees if you need to. A cold day below 40° is the best time to move them. The cold weather will keep them inside during beehive moving, but still close the entrance completely and strap the boxes together.

Touch-up Painting

While the bees are inside the hive, you can also touch up the paint on hives with bees in them. The corners of the boxes are most susceptible to rot, so make sure you get those.

Outside Clean-up

The area around the hives could use a little cleaning up as well this time of the year. Mulching, pulling weeds or laying down weed barriers are all easier to do when the bees aren’t flying

Planning For Next Year

Planning for next year is best done before the year begins. Anticipate equipment needs for the upcoming bee season. Do you want to expand your hives? Do you want to be able to catch swarms? Do you want to try your hand at splitting a hive or even selling one or two nucleus hives (there is a huge market for them)? Are you going into your 2nd or 3rd year with a healthy hive?

If the answer is yes to any of these, it’s important to have equipment on hand before spring starts. You can order now and assemble and paint yourself to save a few dollars.

  Frames. Beekeepers always need lots and lots of frames. Winter is the best time to assemble them, so they are ready when you need them.

  Boxes. We are usually stocked and ready for spring. You don’t need all these on hand, but it’s good to have a couple boxes ready when you find some queen cells. If you are going into your second or third year with a hive, you will probably need another box or two for that extra honey!

  Order Packages. This is the best time of the year to order packages or nucleus hives as well. Both may require a deposit, but the nucleus hives available go quickly.

  Make Pollen Patties. If you are so inclined, you can also make pollen patties to be used in the spring. They aren’t necessary but can help your hive increase their population really quickly in the early spring.

Learn More

Winter is a great time to increase your bee knowledge. Learn the difference in wasps and bees and be able to identify a few of the main flying insects.

Here are a few books that might help to pass the winter nights!

  Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
  Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
  Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard
  Our Native Bees by Paige Embry

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