Preparing Beehives For Winter
Bees prepare for winter by performing a multitude of tasks that ensure the hive’s survival during the
cold months. The priority is to gather and store nectar and pollen to have plenty in reserves. Honey bees
have one main job in the winter — to take care of the queen bee. This means they must keep
her safe and warm.
Before winter female worker bees force male bees (drones) out of the nest because they eat too
much. The honey bee is cold-blooded; they need to maintain warm temperatures in the hive to
keep themselves alive during the harsh winter months. To do this, the worker bees join forces
in the form of a cluster. They huddle together with the queen bee at the center.
Never open the hive in frigid temperatures, even if for only a few moments as the intense cold can
kill the bees.
Your hive needs a strong queen and a healthy brood pattern, which will be a bit smaller than
normal, to survive the winter. If your queen is nowhere to be found, or your brood pattern isn’t
looking like it should, you may want to consider either combining your hive with another or
If you decide to requeen a colony, consider keeping the old queen alive until you’re sure that the
new one has been accepted (and is laying well). You could even put the old queen in a nuc box.
Don’t attempt to winter a hive that isn’t strong and healthy. One way to prevent that is by combining
a weak hive with a strong one. Never combine a weak hive with another weak hive!
Now is the time to check your hives to ensure that they each have enough food. If you are a beekeeper
in Wisconsin, you should have 80 to 90 pounds of food in your hives. The amount of food your bees
will need depends on their strain, local climate, and current health
To gauge weight, you can bring a scale out to your hive to weigh it, or, if you’ve got a knack for
feeling weights, you can lift up a deep hive body. Another thing you can do is estimate using the
knowledge that a fully-filled deep frame holds around five to eight pounds of honey, and a fully-filled
medium frame holds around 3 to 5 pounds.
The most common way to supplement your bees’ diet is with a heavy syrup mixture, which is
a sugar-to-water ratio of 2:1 (by weight). Bring the water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add
the sugar, and then stir until it’s fully dissolved. If possible, add honey to the mixture to ensure
he bees are getting their vitamins — just make sure that your honey isn’t coming from an unknown
source; otherwise, you might accidentally introduce disease spores into your hive.
Another option is to use BeesVita Plus supplements. These supplements are full of nutrients that
improve bees’ health, and can even reduce symptoms associated with Colony Collapse Disorder!
These boards are another way to provide sugar to your bees. They are easy to make, and there
are countless recipes online for you to find the perfect one for you and your bees!
These are great for your bees, especially if they are clustering. Just place the winter patty on
top of the frames, and the bees can eat it without even leaving the cluster.
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to check your hives for pests. If you plan on treating for
pests, focus on treating for varroa mites, as their breeding rate is ramping up this time of year.
Insulation can be critical in northern Wisconsin. Unfortunately, many beekeepers focus on
insulation but often forget that ventilation is just as important. Without ventilation, the warm air
the bees generate will rise, hit the top cover, and condense into water before falling back down
on the bees.
Especially in northern and windy climates, consider building a windbreak, such as a bale of straw.
Providing a windbreak is more important than wrapping your hives!
You really only need to wrap your hives if you live in a northern climate. Once the temperatures start
to dip below freezing during the day, you may want to consider wrapping with either tar paper or a
Bee Cozy Wrap. NEVER wrap your hive with tightly-wrapped plastic, as it will suffocate your bees.
Beekeepers in central and southern climates almost never need to wrap their hives. When in doubt,
use some of these other methods of insulation before wrapping. Wrapping should be a last resort!
By reducing hive entrances, you will help keep the hive warm and prevent other critters from entering
the hive. You may even want to purchase a mouse guard to prevent rodents from damaging your comb.
If you don’t already, consider using an inner cover underneath your outer cover.
This is yet another age-old beekeeping debate. Each has its advantages and disadvantages: Solid
bottom boards keep in the heat better, but screened bottom boards provide better ventilation. It’s
your choice, depending on where you live and how your hives winter.
If you are in a northern (or especially cold) climate, consider adding some extra insulation underneath
the outer cover of your hive. This will help prevent heat loss from below. Newspaper, straw, and burlap
are all great insulators, and they absorb moisture as well.
You can also consider using a Hot Box Winterizer, a great insulator that sits on top of your hives and
acts as a second entrance, in case the bottom entrance to your hive is covered by snow. It even comes
with a moisture board! If you want to purchase a moisture board separately, we also offer those in 8
We hope you and your bees are faring well
this winter! We’re excited to see what spring brings.
Plants had to solve a problem: they needed to find ways to spread their genetic material.
Flying pollinators were nature's solution. Nectar is made as a reward for pollinators.
Take this quick quiz and see how much you know about bees—our favorite essential pollinators
working around the world. This quiz is intended for fun, in a random-facts-can-be-cool kind of way.
Spring begins andhungry pollinators are on the wing, looking for food. From
the moment emerge in spring to the time that they hibernate or migrate in the fall, pollinators
need to eat.