Are Your Honey Bees Ready for Winter?

— Written By Bill Skelton
en Español / em Português

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Beekeeper checking for Varroa mites

Beekeeper checking for Varroa mites

While fall just started a week ago, it is well past time to begin preparing your bees for winter. Several critical steps you cannot overlook if you want your hives to still be alive come March.
1) Monitor AND CONTROL for varroa mites. Research is showing that high mite loads, exceeding 4% or so, at this time of year results in dead hives. Those beekeepers who have monitored for mites and treat if needed have a much higher probability of hive survival over the winter. This is something only YOU can do, MAKE TIME TO MONITOR/CONTROL varroa mites.
2) Be sure to feed your hives. Feeding will stimulate the queen to lay eggs and increase brood production. This results in lots of young bees going into the winter. Bees raised this time of year will live 3-5 months or all winter long. If you only have older bees you will likely be replacing that hive next spring. Check your hives for presence of brood, and if you don’t see it you will need to feed!
3) Be sure to feed your hives. Going into winter each hive will need approximately 50 pounds of stores at a minimum. So at this time check your hives for stored honey and if you need more, you have to feed.
When feeding your bees you can still use any number of feeders. As it gets colder, you will have to use either a baggie feeder, pail feeder, or a sugar block/candy. Also, whenever you are feeding your bees you should reduce the entrance to prevent robbing behavior,
4) Reduce the hive entrance. This is not to keep the bees warm, they can do that themselves. Reducing the hive entrance will help to minimize any robbing while feeding. Additionally, reducing the entrance will allow you to avoid the frustration of finding a mouse nest in your hive next spring, but the hive entrance has to be reduced before it gets cold or the mice will have already found the nice warm bee hive.