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WINTERING HONEY BEES

by George Brezina, West Québec, Canada

 

OBJECTIVES:

    1. Survival
    2. Spring development
    3. Cost and labour

 

EVALUATION OF WINTERING METHODS:

Average winter loss (include queenless & weak colonies to be united):

 

WINTER CLUSTER = ball of bees keeping in the heat

Open cluster will form at outside temp. 5-100C / 4O-5O0F; it will close from the top and tighten with dropping temperatures.

Input: honey and oxygen

Output: heat, water, and carbon dioxide

 

CLUSTER SIZE

Weaker colony - sometimes better chances to survive long winter but less likely to produce honey - do not winter it.

NUC - winter on top of another colony

 

CLEANSING FLIGHT

With no disturbance and cool temperatures bees may go over 5 months without flight.

If fecal material in rectum reaches about 1/2 weight of the bee - it will defecate inside the hive.

 

 

STORES


Compare other methods of local beekeepers.

 

STARVATION

(almost no bees and left-over honey - likely a varroa mite kill)

 

Two critical periods:

 

QUEEN

Important: laying queen in July, August (eggs for winter bee population)

 

TEMPERATURE:

(e.g. On December 21/1993 temp. dropped to -300C (-220F) and stayed in -200C to -300C (-40F to -220F) range, often dropping to -400C (-400F ) with an extreme of -480C (-550F). This lasted till February 15/1994. A strong colony would survive this with no protection but run out of stores at the end of February. )

 

HUMIDITY:

Prevention:

 

 

WIND

Protection:

 

DISTURBANCE

(rodents, hive inspections, ice removal, branches hitting the hive )

 

MEDICATION

 

CONFIGURATION OF THE HIVE

Organize hive before fall feeding:

 

WINTERING INSIDE

    1. cellars (ventilation essential!)
    2. refrigerated /ventilated buildings (e.g. a converted hot room)

 

WINTERING OUTSIDE

 

WRAPPING

Requirements:

    1. Adequate protection
    2. Ease of access to the hive/replacement (spring inspection, feeding, medication)

 

Grouping:

 

 

Examples of Wrapping Methods:

 

BLACK CARTON (bottom waxed)

 

WINTERING CASE

 

TAR PAPER WRAP

 

BURIED UNDER THE SNOW

 

NO PROTECTION

 

BEE-HOUSE / PERMANENTLY INSULATED HIVES

 

QUESTIONS and ANSWERS:

The hive protection is more important in spring than in winter. A cold spell will chill the brood and set the hive back. In our climate wait till the middle of May or later - not before the tomatoes are planted out.

Not too early. Cool hive will cease rearing brood and decrease consumption. In West Quebec it may be done in the first week of November (before the deep frost or heavy snowfall).

It depends on the wintering method. Personally, I had better experience with full width of bottom entrance and no upper entrance.

No. The primary reason for entrance reduction is the defense against robbing. Reduction of the bottom entrance may help to reduce the heat loss if the upper entrance is used.

Several methods exist. For example the height of the bottom entrance may be lowered to the size of the bee space using a metal strip. Metal screen (1/4") can be used. Care must be taken that the entrance will not get blocked by dead bees / ice.

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