Saturday, November 7, 2009

Bee Hive Set-Up for Winter

During the fall of the year, the beekeeper’s concern is to set up the hive for the approaching winter. If the hive is set up properly and the colony is relatively healthy, there is a good chance that the colony will survive the winter. For several months, the flowering plants that provide the honey bee’s food will not be blooming. The temperatures will be too cold for bees to survive outside a warm hive; indeed, honey bees don’t fly when temperatures are below 50 degrees.

There are two requirements for setting up the bee hive for the winter. First, there must be adequate stores of honey which are placed where the bees can access them in the coldest part of the winter. As the bees’ natural tendency is to eat the honey stored above them, the winter cluster of bees should be low in the hive with frames of honey above the cluster. The beekeeper may have to rearrange the position of hive body boxes or frames to get the bees and honey where they should be. The second requirement for wintering honey bees is that the hive must have adequate ventilation. A screened bottom board, opened at the bottom provides considerable ventilation. Further, the openings in inner covers used with telescoping covers provide a chimney to let moist air escape the top of the hive. Placing a stick under the hive to tilt it forward prevents droplets of condensed water from falling onto the bees during cold weather. The photo shows a hive with a full box of stored honey above the cluster of bees. The frame removed from the center of the upper box is full of honey which is fully ripened and capped with beeswax. The color of the cappings changes in a horse shoe pattern resulting from the bees’ filling the lower portion of the frame with honey after the young bees emerged from the last brood cycle of the year.

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