December 2018 Beekeeping Notes

Hardin County Kentucky Beekeepers Association

The weather has turned to winter rather early this year—at least in comparison to the last couple of years. The bees are now clustered up during these very cold days and nights and will fly a little on days when the temperatures reach into the 40’s and above. Avoid opening the beehives unless you suspect something is wrong and then only on a sunny day when the bees are flying. There are four things that cause the death of beehives in the winter:

  1. Very weak hives and weak queens: The best remedy for weak queens was to have re-queened in the fall and for weak hives was to have combined them with stronger hives in September/October timer frame. But don’t give up on a weak hive this time of year—it may still make it through the winter. Keep the supplemental feeding available for them. Bees are very resilient.
  2. Moisture in the hive: Bees will died from cold moisture or even freeze because of too much moisture in the hive. This is due to a lack of adequate ventilation. There needs to be a reasonable size bottom entrance opening around two inches or so and many beekeepers provide an upper entrances with a ½ to 5/8 inch hole in the top front center. There are other options for moisture control discussed in many references.
  3. Starvation: Starvation is due to a lack of adequate stored honey and pollen in the hive or the hive clustering in one location and not moving to an area with food. Supplemental feeding with candy boards, winter patties and etc. can help avoid die outs due to starvation.
  4. Varroa mites and related viruses: It has pretty much become accepted practice to treat for Varroa Mites in September and then again shortly after Thanksgiving. The recommended late treatment option is with Oxalic Acid; because, the queens have most likely stopped laying and there is little to no brood and the temperatures in late November and December are not conducive for the use of other treatments.
  5. Lastly, it is advisable to provide some type of wind break for the beehives if one does not exist. Some wrap the back and sides of hives with roofing paper, some actually put up some type of windbreak fence and some relocate their hives for winter so as to provide a place safer from the cold winter winds—caution if moving/relocating—be sure you fully understand the process in order to be successful.

Now is the time to make sure that your beekeeping equipment is properly stored for winter and to start working on any repairs needed to your beekeeping equipment. Merry Christmas

Leave a comment