With fall approaching, it’s time for a hive inspection. One thing to note is whether or not your colony has the food stores it needs. Bees in northern climates need anywhere from 60-90 pounds of honey to get through the winter. A number of factors can result in an insufficient supply of honey including parasites, a low number of bees, a late start in the spring, a weak queen, or swarming. A good way to make sure the bees have enough honey is with a Beepods Harvest Box. The Harvest Box allows you to store honeycomb for winter use.
The best way to feed bees is with their own honey. With a Beepods Harvest Box, you can remove a honey-filled bar of comb in the summer and then return it to the Beepod Vented Topbar Hive before the bees enter winter mode. When you remove the honey, the bees will produce more honey to replace what was lost. The bees will appreciate it when you return the bar in the forage-less days of winter.
In warm spring, summer, and fall weather, worker bees gather nectar from within four miles of the hive. They make honey which they then feed on in the colder winter months. As the days get shorter, the worker bees go into food-gathering mode. Nectar provides the carbohydrates and pollen provides the protein. (Want to help hungry fall bees? Plant Russian sage, goldenrod, asters, chrysanthemum, and other late-blooming flowers.)
When a beekeeper removes a bar of comb in the summer, he or she is stealing those winter reserves. So how does that help? The bees continue to produce honey as long as nectar is available. Returning the honeycomb in the winter provides additional nutrients to keep the hive healthy, strong, and better able to fight off parasites. With enough honey, bees can survive the winter and make it to the spring nectar flow. Be careful not to remove a comb in late fall when they may not have time to replace it.
Adding the honeycomb in the winter not only provides nutrients, it also helps to warm the hive. As bees form a cluster and generate friction with their wings to warm the hive, they also warm the honey which helps to retain the heat. You will notice that the bees may be compressing the honey into a single area near the entrance. If they have empty bars or bars that won’t contribute to winter survival, remove them. If the bees haven’t done this rearranging, you can help out by placing bars that are full of honey and nectar at one end of the hive. Once the daily temperature drops to an average of 40ºF, you can provide further protection from harsh winter winds with a Beepods System Winterizing Kit.
As winter approaches, talk to other beekeepers for advice. If you haven’t already, renew your Beepods membership and take advantage of the videos and lessons in Beepods Lab. You might as well grab a bowl of chips while you are at it. After all, bees aren’t the only ones fattening up for the winter.