Beekeeping In December
Excerpted from: Winterizing Bee Hives
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about honey bee anatomy. Honey Bees play an
important role in pollination. Give the quiz a try!
Ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Take a look at the winter survival strategies
of native bumblebees, and native solitary bees.
This guide features regional native plants for the Great Lakes that are highly
attractive to native bees and honey bees.