Is your hive winter ready?
How you prepare your hive for winter will depend greatly on the local climate and availability of forage. In the coldest regions of Australia, bees will be hunkering down and waiting out the cold inside the hive. As a bee custodian, it’s up to you to ensure your bees are in the best position to see out the season.
Your overwintering set-up will be specific to the needs of your colony in your climate – it’s best to consult with local beekeepers to learn the best over-wintering practices for your region.
Some of the steps you may need to take are:
- - Ensure the bees have adequate stores of honey and/or syrup
- - Remove the queen excluder and excess boxes
- - Insulate the hive, if it’s particularly cold
- - Ensure correct ventilation
- - Strap or weigh down the hive, if your area is prone to high velocity winds
- - Add a mouse guard, especially if you’re out west NSW this year!
- - Install a windbreak
How to overwinter your beehive
Planning on growing your apiary in spring?
We recommend having more than one hive. You can learn a lot by comparing the differences between multiple colonies. When it comes to hives, we’ve got a range of options to choose from.
What to expect during winter?
As with all beekeeping advice, local knowledge is crucial. The extent of your winter preparations will naturally depend on the length and severity of winter in your area.
If you haven’t already done so, contact your local beekeeping club to exchange information and ideas on overwintering practices in your area. If your local club is in lockdown, they might have a Facebook page or other online resources.
Super on or off?
Many beekeepers will reduce the size of their hives during winter, removing excess boxes. The smaller the size of the hive, the easier for the bees to keep it warm.
However, this consideration needs to be balanced with making sure the bees have enough food to last the winter. If your Flow Super has a lot of honey in it, leave it on for the bees. If not, remove it for the winter – perhaps you’ve an extra brood box of honey stores, or plan to feed your bees through the winter.
Storing Flow Frames
If you remove your Flow Super, wash the Flow Frames in warm to hot water and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry, dark location for the winter. The Flow Frame plastic is UV sensitive.
Winter beekeeping tasklist
Keep the queen in the cluster
The bees will form a cluster during winter, and will gradually move up the hive consuming the honey stores. It is vital that you remove the queen excluder so that the queen does not get stranded from the rest of the colony.
The queen will not be laying eggs at this time, so it’s not a problem for her to get into the honey super during winter.
Do not disturb...
It’s best to avoid any hive or brood inspections when the weather is cold. The bees will maintain a brood temperature of 34 -36°C. It is dangerous to expose them to low temperatures (anything under 15°C) by opening up the hive, so keep it closed.
It’s possible to figure out what part of the hive the bees are in by listening closely. The nearer they are to the top, the less stores they have left – so this can be a way of knowing whether you need to feed them.
A good time to study!
While there’s not much to be done in the apiary, it’s a great time to expand your knowledge about bees.
TheBeekeeper.org is an online beekeeping course, featuring a range of the world’s beekeeping experts.
Bees are such fascinating creatures, and there’s always more to learn about them. Along with the more practical lessons, there are also a number of lessons on the wonder and mystery of bees.
Did you know that bees have the ability to identify the styles of different painters? Sign up to find out more!
With contributions from specialists around the world, there’s no other source of beekeeping knowledge quite like this. There are also live Q & A sessions to clear up any queries!
Insulate & ventilate
If you need, you can add insulation to the top cover using wood shavings or polystyrene. The outside of your hive should be sealed and waterproof. Depending on the severity of your climate, you can consider wrapping the hives for extra insulation. Consult with local beekeepers to get suggestions and ideas for your area.
The hive should have ventilation, but not a draught. Entrance reducers can help to prevent draughts, and a mouse excluder can prevent your hive becoming a rodent hotel.
Inspire others to get involved
Do you know someone who’s keen on taking up beekeeping in the new year? Have you convinced a friend to follow you into the beekeeping world?
Our Refer-A-Friend program allows your friend to receive $50 off their first hive, and you receive a sweet $50 reward.
If you don’t have a beekeeping buddy, consider linking up with someone local on the Flow Community Forum.