Apiary with wooden old beehives in fall.

Beekeeping In November

  The beekeepers’ work starts to dwindle as your hives should be ready for winter with adequate food supplies, ventilation, wind-screens, mouse guards, upper entrances, or whatever your winter regimen has become.

In November, your bees will become broodless and start to cluster together in dormancy. The exception to this is a periodic warm spell that allows them to move closer to stored honey and when they make those all-important cleansing (defecating) flights.

If you haven’t done these things, hop to it as the days are getting shorter, daytime temperatures are dropping. Mice are looking for nice warm nesting locations as the temperature drops.


In the fall a reduction in the amounts of nectar and pollen coming into the hive causes reduced brood rearing and diminished population.

Depending on the age and egg-laying condition of the queen, the proportion of old bees in the colony decreases. The young bees survive the winter, while the old ones gradually die.

  Observe Your Hive

Beehives in fall.

The first step to ensuring bee health and happiness heading into the winter months is to observe the hive. Established hives will produce more honey than ones that are not well established. Being armed with this knowledge will help you customize the next actions to take in securing the hive for winter.

November sees the change of seasons and it is the same for bees. They are preparing for their dormancy period and must be well cared for.


One of the best things you can do for your bees is to ensure their hive is well ventilated. Honeybees produce warmth in the center of the hive, which creates a very moist environment.

Droplets can condense on the roof of the hive and drip down on the bees, which can be harmful. Tilting the hive box so that drainage occurs is one solution to this problem. You can also choose to get a quilt box, which helps to wick away condensation.

If you do choose to insulate your beehive, you must be careful not to increase the moisture accumulation also. It’s a sensitive balance and must be checked often to prevent harm to the hive.

You also need to keep your bees warm so they do not risk cold exposure. Less robust colonies can be harmed by lack of warmth, especially in Wisconsin. You will want to be sure that the hive is placed in the best location possible. When insulating your hive, a winter wrap is a great choice to protect against the elements because it is both wind and waterproof.

Quilt Box

A quilt box - it sounds so cozy! However, its main purpose is something else altogether. Its primary function is a moisture management tool.

A quilt box has no solid, impermeable surface. Instead, it has a piece of cotton cloth as a “floor” underneath a thick layer of pine shavings. Moisture vapor, rising up from the bees, meets the fabric and passes through it and into the shavings.

Above the shavings are holes in a shim that will allow the moisture to continue to travel up, through, and out of the hive when outside conditions are right. In the meantime, the shavings will absorb the water and hold it harmlessly away from the bees. The shavings, being well packed, will close up the top of the hive stack so that the bees don’t freeze.


If you are wondering how to keep your favorite pollinator bees fed during the winter, you’re not alone. Mostly, strong beehives will not need help, or for you to take any action at all. But at times, some nutritious hive additions can ensure your beehive makes it through the dormancy period.

There are a couple of actions a beekeeper can take leading into the dormancy period that may help keep the beehive strong:

  Making homemade fondant can sustain your bees through winter and prevent starvation.
  Simply opening a bag of white sugar can feed hungry bees as well. Just be sure to double-check the bag often so it can be replaced when empty.
  Pollen patties provide a high carbohydrate feed for honeybees.

  November Task List

  Monitor entrance to keep clean by brushing away snow or dead bees.
  Remove all queen excluders! Bees will consume the honey around them and move upward. If you have an excluder on, they will leave your queen behind and she'll freeze to death.
  Tip hives forward with a shim so water and snow can run outward.
  When providing wind-breaks, do not shade the hive. Sunlight is your friend and wind is the enemy.
  Make sure there is still plenty of honey. If not, you may need to emergency feed by using pollen patties or candy (fondant or peppermint cane). Once you start doing this, you can't stop until the temperature goes back up and they are able to take flights for nectar.
  Further reduce the entrance reducer so that the smaller hole is being used.
  Add a quilt box (super filled with rags/ towels and topped with a screen/ excluder) or absorbent layer above the hive to soak up condensation or moisture.
  Clean, repair, store and order equipment in preparation for the next season.

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