In November, your bees will become broodless and start to cluster together in dormancy. The exception is a periodic warm spell that allows them to move closer to stored honey and make those all-important cleansing (defecating) flights. Therefore, the beekeepers’ work starts to dwindle a little as your hives should be ready for winter with adequate food supplies, ventilation, wind-screens, mouse guards, upper entrances, or whatever your winter regimen has become. If you haven’t done these things, hop to it as the days are getting shorter, daytime temperatures are dropping, and mice are looking for nice warm nesting locations. Winter seems to be right on time in our area.
Stand back, take a deep breath, and be proud of your efforts and accomplishments for the year and start planning for next year. Review not only your successes but embrace the problems that you encountered. As the cost of bees and equipment continues to rise, it is more economical to learn from mistakes, and each other than to learn at the cost and expense of the bees. So, volunteer to share your experiences with club members by making a presentation at an upcoming meeting, attend some bee education classes or host a field day next season.
A few other tips for ensuring your hives are ready for the winter:
- Reduce entrances if you haven't already. Holes should be on their smallest. If your reducer is made of wood, keep in mind, a determined mouse can chew the small hole open overnight. Add tin sheeting over the wood, or even hardware cloth to prevent it (cutting a hole in the screen as large as the hole in the reducer.)
- REMOVE all queen excluders! Bees will consume the honey around them and move upward. If you have an excluder on, they will leave your queen behind and she'll freeze to death.
- Add your emergency food sources if you use them: candy boards, winter patties, mountain camp feed, etc. Do not feed sugar syrup in cold weather as the bees cannot get rid of extra moisture and can lead to dysentery.
- Tip hives forward with a shim so water and snow can run outward.
- When providing wind-breaks, do not shade the hive. Sunlight is your friend and wind is the enemy.
- Wrap if you need too with tar paper or other dark heat-absorbing materials. They will absorb heat during the day, and make the nights a little more tolerable.
Start planning for next year
- Evaluate your equipment for next year. How many deeps, supers, and swarm traps will you need? Will you need more hives? Are your supers ready for the spring? Plan to attend one of Garry's Winter Workshops! (watch the club calendar for upcoming dates).
- Make your plans for swarm prevention now. "Plan your work, and then work your plan."
- Order a bee book or two or subscribe to Bee Culture or American Bee Journal. Winter is the time for reading.
- Attend a conference or bee school.