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2021
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Beekeeping In January

Excerpted from: Winterizing Bee Hives

Beehives in winter January is much like December, but bees are getting very busy in the hive. More and more bees are hatching out as the daylight lengthens which causes the queen to increase her egg laying even more. The occasionally warm day will allow the bees to forage on pollen, an essential food used to raise brood. The risk of starvation inside the hive increases as well.

This process happens pretty slowly at first, as the population of the hive is at it’s lowest in early January. The small population of adult bees keeps the eggs and larvae at 95° F, so the queen can’t lay more eggs than there are adult bees to warm them. Only as the bees hatch out, is the queen able to expand the brood nest further.

More and more bees are hatching out as the daylight lengthens which causes the queen to increase her egg laying.

It's Cold Out There!

Graphic of bee in winter The chance of starvation is typically minimal in January, as the queen hasn’t started laying at 100% capacity yet. This happens in March and April.

January is a very cold month, but there are typically short periods of warmth which are crucial for the bees health. On warm days, the bees are able to “break” their cluster and go to another part of the hive to eat honey. It’s possible for bees to starve because it was too cold to crawl to another frame to eat honey.

These warm days (above 50° F) allow bees to take a bathroom break as well. Bees keep the inside of the hive clean, and “holding it” until a warm day helps with that. Watch them leave the hive this time of the year and you may actually see them relieving themselves.

One of the more important tasks of the new year for bees is to forage for pollen if we have days about 50° F. Pollen is crucial for the bees during January and February if they are going to survive the year. The pollen is used with raising the eggs the queen is laying.

Avoid opening the hive this time of the year, the propolis seals the bees made during the fall help keep the cold out. Help your bees by keeping the hive shut. You can remove the top or telescoping cover to replenish or add dry sugar as an emergency food source for your bees and best bee food for winter.

January is still a “calm before the storm” period for beekeepers. It may be the month with the least amount of responsibility for the beekeeper. But like anything, if you fail to plan, you can plan to fail.

January Beekeeper Tasks

  This month is the perfect month for getting your equipment ready for bee season. Make adjustments to the mistakes made in the previous year,

  Buy honey harvesting equipment.

  The cold, dark evenings are great for assembling frames or boxes, so order now so you have them when you need them.

  The cold weather is a good time to touch upon the paint on the outside of the hives with bees in them.

  January is a time when beekeeping clubs host beginner courses. It’s a good idea to brush up on the basics of beekeeping, so consider attending one, even if you have had bees for a year. See the current list of Wiconsin-based and on-line courses: 2021 Beekeeping Classes

Learn More

Graphic of books tied with a ribbon

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


Try The Honeybee Quiz

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!

Where Do Bees Go In Winter?

Ever wondered where bees go in the winter? Take a look at the winter survival strategies of native bumblebees, and native solitary bees.

Garden Plan For Bees

This guide features regional native plants for the Great Lakes that are highly attractive to native bees and honey bees.