This time of year is considered the dormant period, but if the weather turns mild or any period of time, the queens will start laying again. The bees keep their winter cluster intact, except on sunny days in the 40’s & 50’s when the bees will fly. The queen begins to lay eggs, and brood rearing begins in the larger and healthier beehives. Any final Varroa Mite treatment with Oxalic Acid should have already been completed. It is time to check to make sure that there is plenty of food stores remaining or that your supplemental feed source is adequate. Starvation is one of the biggest causes for hive loses during the winter. The other primary reasons for hive losses is Varroa Mite and Viruses, weak or non-productive queens and too much moisture to due to a lack of proper ventilation. Be sure that on a nice warm day with little to no wind and the bees are flying that you take a quick check of your beehives to make sure that they are still alive and also to assess the strength and weakness of any of them. This is also the best time to repair and paint your beehive equipment and to replace any old very dark sometimes black foundation with new wax foundation or to scrape your old plastic foundation and clean them up with a new coat of bees wax. Properly store boxes of frames with foundation using Paramoth.
In the late October, I treated all my 17 hives with Formic Pro and then in late December I did a onetime treatment with Oxalic Acid with a fogger. The results varied from no mites found on the debris boards to about 12 or so. That told me that my hives were in pretty good shape and the mite treatments have been effective.
In mid to late November, I started using Dadant’s AP23 Winter Patties since the weather had turned colder and the bees’ consumption of sugar syrup had really slowed down. Then in mid-December I made up candy boards for all my beehives. When I went to place them on, the bees had consumed almost all the winter patties and a lot of their stored honey and pollen. So I place another winter patty on at the same time I put on the candy boards. Well I went back to check in the bees a few weeks later, they had for the most part completely consumed the winter patties and 10% to 20% of the candy boards plus several had starting building cone up into the candy boards. All the hives appeared to be healthy and very active even the smallest that I have reservations about. Good signs. But it is a long way to spring yet.
I have single deep 10 frame hives, double deep 10 frame hives, single deeps with one medium hives, single deeps with two medium hives. So I have a real variety going through the winter and it will be interesting to see how they survive until March.
VERY IMPORTANT! If you have any hives that die out---be sure to take them apart and clean the frames of all dead bees an store the equipment using Paramoth. Frames that have honey can be either extracted and properly stored or placed in a freezer or refrigerator until spring.