Beekeeping In October
The cold months will soon be upon us which means that the largest amount of colony losses
is right around the corner. It is important to do your hive inspections before the cold temperatures
So it’s time to start thinking about how to protect the hives from the Wisconsin weather to come. The
hardest part about winter beekeeping in Wisconsin is that it is often too cold to open your hives for
months on end. So one warm November afternoon you set the bees up with everything you can to
get them through, and then wish them the best until spring.
Here are 10 tasks that you can do this fall to
provide your hive support during the cold winter.
The USDA published a study done in Iowa comparing the use of screen bottom boards
versus solid bottom boards in cold winter climates. The study found that in the hives with the
screen board the honey bee population decreased by 20%
We’re still having warm days, but the flowers are dying. This limits the bee's natural food availability.
To prevent them from tapping into their honey stores too early and thus having them run out of
food this winter, feed now to give extra support.
During fall months we feed our bees a 2:1 concentration of sugar to water solution to help them store up.
Another option is fondant "bee candy" or pollen patties. The video shows a simple method
for making pollen patties.
Condensation in the beehive is even more deadly than cold. Many beekeepers will place an empty
hive body above the inner cover for added protection against the cold. Some beekeepers will place
different substrates within the space above the inner cover to soak up the humidity. Some use
compressed cardboard or even hay.
There are many different materials to choose from including
newspaper which is fairly cheap. Crumble the newspaper into balls and place them in an empty hive
body above the inner cover as shown below. You can put an open sheet over the top; it is easier to
use as an indicator if the paper is wet when you pick this sheet up. The newspaper can become
saturated quickly depending on the weather. It is important to remove and replace the newspaper once
a week to prevent mold.
It is recommended to put an entrance reducer on each hive before winter starts. The population of a hive
naturally ebbs and flows throughout the year, creating an ever-changing work force of bees responsible
for guarding the hive. This population decreases as winter looms or the colony is being weakened. The
entrance reducer can help them get through these periods of low populations.
Stack straw bales in a U-shape around your hive blocking it from wind and snow drifts. A piece of metal
sheet roofing or plywood works well for this too. You can stabilize it with t-post stakes.
Signs of Infestation
of Varoa mites
If you’re new to beekeeping start researching ways to treat for Varoa mite prevention. Your hive is
going to be (somewhat) sealed up for the winter. This gives any lingering Varroa mite the perfect
opportunity to up the infestation without your intervention.
Wrapping your hive with cardboard or tar paper can help block drafts and contain heat. Wrap on three
sides excluding the entrance side.
If you observe that your bees are not storing food or laying eggs in a particular box, remove that
unused space. The extra space will welcome unwanted guests.
The quote goes, "When the Queen is happy, there is peace in the Kingdom." Going into
winter with strong, healthy Queens free of disease will give your hive a better chance at survival.
The Queens age will also be a factor for survival. Some beekeepers will re-queen a second season
Queen because she has a 50:50 chance of failure over winter.
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.