Winterizing your bees the natural way.

| 10/29/2010 9:56:21 AM

It’s that time of year to think about putting our summertime pleasures to bed.  At our house, we just finished carpeting our entire front lawn with a deep mulch of spoiled hay.  This is the first step to converting our lawn to food production.

What do we need to do for the bees? 

Many of you already know, bees do not hibernate or sleep in the winter. They form a cluster and generate heat. They maintain 96 degrees in the middle of the cluster all winter long. The process of warm air emanating from the cluster making contact with the cold flat surface above the cluster results in moisture build up or condensation, much like the water that forms on a cold glass and runs down to make a ring on your mother-in-law’s antique end table.  Standing water is never a good scenario, whether it is in a beehive or an antique end table.

James Ziting with a top bar comb 

At our local bee clubs, we are usually taught to give the bees ventilation on the top of the hive as well as the bottom entrance. This is to prevent humidity from building up on the ceiling of the hive only to drip into the cluster to freeze them.  However, this extra ventilation is problematic because the air draft requires more energy from the clustered bees to maintain the 96 degrees and 50% humidity.  Simply put, they have to eat more of their food storage than necessary.

 In the wild, bees prefer to maintain a single entrance at the bottom of the hive. A single entrance allows them to fan fresh air or ventilate the hive as needed.  Fanning also directs excess moisture to be absorbed into the wood to be made available for when it is drier or when in serious excess they can direct it out of the entrance.

11/24/2010 2:41:19 PM

James, I plan on having bees in about 2 years. I plan on using two sections of a hollow tree that is about 24 in wide. The side walls will be around 2 1/2 in thick. I will cut them and then make a tops and bottoms to fit it. How far up from the bottom should I make their entrance hole. I will also band the hives with two adjustable straps to keep them tight. Is there any certain type of wood that I cannot use for this? I will be using fir or tamarack for my project. Would domed cieling make a difference? Do squirrils bother hives?

11/24/2010 12:24:50 PM

Oh, how right you are! I am concerned about the bees making it thru the winter. A pile of hay bales surrounding the hive is not the right way to go - right? So . . . I guess I should just let them be. They nearly filled two Langstroth boxes built with full size lumber which I guess is better. We are near the saltwater so it does not get quite as cold here as it does a few miles inland. I will try not to be a 'helicopter' beekeeper!

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