Here’s what winterizing a beehive looks like at Mayetta Farms…
First, we make sure the frames are loaded with honey to get them through the winter. If there are empty frames, we replace them with full ones.
Second, we treat the hive with a plant-based compound called oxalic acid, to prevent varroa mites from killing the bees. We prefer not to use medicated treatments. Here’s what the EPA has to say about oxalic acid: “Oxalic acid is ubiquitous in the environment being found naturally in many plants and vegetables, as well as in honey. It occurs naturally as the potassium or calcium salt in sap, notably in plants of the Oxalis and Rumex families.”
Then, we put “bee candy” on top of the frames (the white clumps in this first photo). This is a homemade fondant that we made, and that we hope the bees will not need. It’s an emergency source of food, in case the winter is longer than expected and the bees run out of honey stores to eat.
Next, we put a wooden shim on the hive around the bee candy. It simply raises the next box up an inch or so, to make room for the bee candy to sit on the frames. Then, we put a metal grate called a “queen excluder” on top of the shim. The queen excluder is not actually being used as a queen excluder here. That is a separate thing, but it works well for this, too! Here, you can see the shim and the metal grate…
On top of the metal grate, we put a medium hive box, and line it with a thin tea towel. On top of the tea towel, we fill the box with pine shavings. This is called a “quilt box.” The purpose of a quilt box, is to absorb condensation, so that it doesn’t drip on the bees, potentially killing them.
Next, we put cardboard shims in between the quilt box and the inner cover, to vent the hive.
Then we put the outer cover (not pictured here) on the very top and put heavy bricks on top of it, to help weigh down the hive, protecting it from winds.
The last photo here, is of the “entrance reducer.” It helps keep cold air out of the hive, by reducing the size of the entrance. It also reduces the amount of space that any invaders would have to access the hive. Notice that the reduced entrance is about a half inch off the floor of the hive. This is intentional. In the winter, many bees will die and fall to the floor of the hive. Having the entrance/exit raised off the floor, keeps it from being blocked off by dead bees.
Some beekeepers will also wrap their hive with some form of insulation. We have been considering doing this at Mayetta Farms as well, but so far we have found condensation to be a worse problem for us than the cold.
The only other tips I would add, is that Thanksgiving is a good rule of thumb date, by which you should have your hive winterized. Also, if you have a problem with mice, consider buying a mouse guard for your hive, because mice will get inside and chew up your frames, if you let them.
Thanks for reading!🐝