Beekeeping Tips for December

By Jim Orem and Ginger Davidson

What is usually happening in the hive:

The bees are clustered together in a dormant state.   Periodic stretches of warm weather will allow the bees to break their cluster in order to take cleansing (defecating) flights, and hopefully move closer to honey stores. By the time December rolls around, beekeeping activities have tapered off. 

Hopefully, these things were accomplished in November:

  • Reduce entrances with mouse guards.
  • Tip hives forward with a shim so water and snow runs out.
  • Provide wind breaks with hay bales, screens made of plywood etc. but do not shade the hive. Sunlight is your friend wind is the enemy.  
  • Check honey stores and if needed, add extra frames of honey and/or emergency feeding supplies (candy boards, candy bricks, fondant, mountain camp dry sugar, etc.).
  • Allow upper entrances for ventilation and as a bee escape in the event the bottom entrance becomes snowed over.
  • Protect frames of drawn out wax by using moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene), freezing frames, or leaving super and brood boxes with frames open and exposed to light.  These frames will be extremely useful in the Spring.

Don’t forget completely about the bees though.

  • Check in on them after storms and strong winds to be sure equipment is secure.
  • As a rule of thumb, never open a hive during the winter unless there is a good reason and the temperature is at least 45°F and preferably warmer. Work around the cluster rather than through it.
  • During warm spells, take note of the colonies that are flying or not.

Start planning for next year:

  • What are your plans?  How many deeps, supers and swarm traps will you need? Will you need more hives?  Are your supers ready for next year? 
  • Repair, order, and make new equipment.
  • Make your plans for swarm prevention. Plan your work, and then work your plan.  
  • Order replacement queens, nucs, and packages.  

Other things to consider:

  • Order and read a book about bees.  SIBA Milan/Moores Hill has a small library of loaner books available.
  • Make some hive products:  candles, soaps, mead wine, etc.
  • Share some of your products with friends, neighbors, or co-workers.

What other tips can you share so we can make this list better?

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