In the fall it is important to look inside the bee hives and set them up for winter. Fall bee hive management is designed to help the bees survive the winter. This week I checked bee hives with Corinth, Mississippi beekeeper, Heidi Hendrix, and my 12-year-old grandson, Ethan. There are two important issues for over-winter success: food and hive ventilation. We make sure that the brood nest is located low in the hive with frames of capped honey above. To get this arrangement, we may need to move frames or rearrange hive bodies. It is the tendency of honey bees to move upward in the hive over the winter. The heat of the bees’ winter cluster warms the stored honey above the cluster; the bees eat this honey; and then they move up to occupy the empty cells. If the bees begin the winter with their brood nest located high in the hive, they may not move down to feed on available honey stores. It is frustrating for beekeepers to find honey bee colonies that starved while there is plenty of available honey stored inches away from the bees’ winter cluster. If the hive is light in weight when one end is lifted, the bees need feeding. For fall feeding, “heavy” syrup of two parts sugar to one part water is readily converted to honey and stored.
The second important issue in bee hive set-up for winter is ventilation. Bee hives are warm and damp on the inside. Cold winter temperatures outside the hives cause condensation to form on the inside hive walls. The effect is opposite that of a glass of iced tea on a hot, damp Delta summer day where condensation forms on the glasses’ outside surface. Water dripping in the hive can kill bees. A small vent at the top of the bee hive is all that is needed to remove hive moisture. Today’s photo shows a full box of capped honey above the brood nest.