Graveside Chat: West Laurel Hill Blog

Overwintering Bees in Cold Climates

Overwintering Bees in Cold Climates

Our beekeeper, Susan, was hard at work this summer trying to build up the hives so they will be ready to explode with growth and honey next spring!

Although in one location, all three hives behaved differently over the summer. One hive flourished and grew, one hive needed constant requeening and one hive never put up any stores for itself.

Going into winter, our beekeeper checked the bees for mites using an alcohol test. They were at the high end for mite load so she did an oxalic acid dribble - this process uses an organic acid in a sugar solution to coat the bees. The light acid solution interferes with the mites’ ability to stick to the bees. She then put a piece of insulation under the cover and wrapped the hives with water heater insulation. She tiled them forward so any moisture that develops in the hive will run out the front and reduced the entrance size so mice can’t get into the hives. Susan secured the hives to the stands and will periodically check on them throughout the winter.

Every beekeeper has an opinion on how to overwinter bees!

The general beekeeper consensus, however, is to have low mite counts, lots of food and insulated covers so the moisture doesn’t rain down on the bees. The bees exhale about 3 gallons of water vapor during the winter and when that moisture hits a cold top cover it condenses. If the cold-water rains down on the bees they will not be able to maintain the winter cluster and will perish.

Bees don’t hibernate but spend the entire winter keeping the internal temperature of the cluster at around 95 degrees. The queen bee and some brood are at the center of the cluster and bees at the outside of the cluster interlock their little furry bodies to provide insulation and vibrate special wing muscles to produce heat for the inner core. Bees inside the cluster take care of the queen and brood and do normal bee housekeeping things. Over the course of the winter a hive will eat about 40 lbs of honey!

Here’s hoping our bees will stay warm this winter and expand their hive for a thriving spring!

Special thanks to our beekeeper Susan Howett for keep the bees safe and warm, and sharing her knowledge with us!