At the very end of the month of January, we finally have a couple of days above freezing. What does that mean for us and the bees? It means its a good time to do a quick check and see how their sugar patty food is doing and if their shavings boxes are staying dry.
We often get asked what we do with the bees in the winter and how we keep them warm. The answer can be different from each beekeeper but most of the time they will tell you that they just stay in their hives all winter. Honey Bees natural habitat is in the wild, technically they can survive the cold winters by themselves, without us having to really do anything.
However, we like to ensure they stay dry and they have enough food source, but besides those two things, they do all the rest of the work.
In the winter when it gets cold, they slow down and go almost dormant. Which is a good thing, because they eat less food this way. They will stay awake just enough to huddle together and create body heat together and they will snack on their food the whole winter. This is why in my last post I explained that we didn’t harvest this year and that was to make sure they had enough of a food source for the winter.
After we get through a cold snap and we have a warm day, I like to check on them. I lift their lids up and check to see what the shavings look like. When it warms up, there is more moisture in the air and can become concerning for them. Because the Honey Bees create their own body heat the shavings tend to get wet, from both their body heat and the moisture in the air. Not necessarily a bad thing, unless the shavings end up thawing when it warms up, and than we have another cold snap. Being as we do live in Northern WI, that is bound to happen again.
I went and checked on the hives today, January 31st 2022. I came to find the first hive is doing good, just as expected. A few shavings were damp, so I scooped those out and stirred things around. I than moved to the second hive to find that under the lid was a lot of ice. It looked similar to a freezer around the edges of the box and the lid had a large layer of ice on it. I removed what I could during lunch and knew after work I would need to take of some things.
I came back after work and I grabbed out an extra box, a clean 100% cotton t-shirt, new lid and fresh shavings. I stapled the t-shirt to the bottom of the new box, and switched it out with the one that was all iced up. I checked their food and it looks like they have been eating it as well but there is still some left so we wont worry about that for a few more weeks.
Tomorrow February 1st, 2022 I will come home on lunch and wrap some duct tape around the top shavings box and the top hives box, just to keep moisture out of it. The t-shirt that is stapled to the bottom, stops the boxes from sitting tightly together. The duct tape just helps keep the bees from escaping out of the sides and getting confused about where their main door is.
We will come back in a couple of weeks and check on things again and see how they are doing. We will more than likely feed them more sugar patties at that time, to just ensure they make it until spring. At this point, we are very confident they are going to make it through. They seem to be doing really well considering how cold it has gotten so far this winter.
Be sure to stay tuned and check back in the future to see how this all works out for us. Your good vibes and thoughts must be working for us.
Much Love & Honey!
Good luck! Wishing you and Mark and the bees a great rest of the winter!