What Do Bees Do In the Winter? And, How to Winterize a Top Bar Hive

entrance mouse gaurd top bar hive

You might be wondering “How do bees keep warm in the Winter?”

heater bees

“Heater bees” face first in the comb

When the temperature outside of the hive is higher than 18°C / 64°F, bees in the hive are normally dispersed within it. However, in the cold Winter climates, production of eggs and larva stop while the bees crowd tightly together into a cluster. Insulation by the tightly packed outer bees of the cluster reduces heat loss. The temperature of the cluster ranges as high as 20-35°C / 68°-95°F on the inside of the cluster to as low as 9-14°C / 48-57°F at the outside of the cluster. When temperatures outside of the hive reach below -10°C / 14°F, the bees near the middle of the cluster actively produce heat by shivering their flight muscles.

So, what can you do to help your honey bees survive Winter? Choose a hive that is easy to winterize for cold winters!

How to Winterize a Top Bar Hive in a Cold Climate

entrance plugEntrance Plugs. Each side of the hive has a group of three entrance holes, making a total of 12 holes in the hive. In the Fall, silicone stoppers can be used to close off the entrances on the three sides of the hive that are not being used as the main entrance in order to minimize the possibility of other bees or wasps robbing the hive of its honey stores.

For the Winter, one or two of the remaining three holes (on the side of the hive that contains the main entrance) should also be plugged up with these rubber plugs. This would leave only one or two of the 12 possible entrances open during the cold winter months. Leaving one or two holes open during Winter allows the bees to leave the hive for their cleansing flights. It’s a good idea to rotate which of the three holes are left open to ensure they are clear of debris, like dead bees. Silicone corks are included in the Beepods Complete Beekeeping System, however, you can also use wine corks.

entrance mouse gaurd top bar hiveEntrance Mouse Guards. A strip of hardware cloth (wire mesh) can be placed over all entrances on all side in late Fall to minimize the risk of rodents from entering the hive.

The size of the holes in the mesh (¼ inch is recommended) should be big enough to allow the bees to exit and enter the hive for their cleansing flights during the winter, but too small for baby mice to get through.

The hardware cloth is included in the Beepods Winterizing Kit.

steel wool mouse guardSteel Wool. Mice will chew through almost anything in the interest of getting warm, but they do not like metal.

A roll of steel wool (cut into two long strips) can be used to fill the gap between the lid and lip of the hive that would act as a breathable barrier to deter pest, like rodents, from chewing on the wood to gain access to the hive.

Steel wool is included in the Beepods Winterizing Kit.

top bar hive desiccant pillowDesiccant Pillow. In Winter, the bees consume and metabolize their honey stores and produce water vapor in the process. The warm, moist air rises from the cluster hitting the cold lid/cover of the hive, which can cause condensation. The lid of the Beepod is convex and is also vented, which protects the inner chamber and colony from harsh exterior elements.

Over winter, a pillow of wood shavings should be placed in the space between the lid and the top bars in order to absorb excess moisture from the air and keep condensation from dripping directly on the bars and into the comb. A desiccant pillow is included in the Beepods Winterizing Kit.

top bar hive winterizing wrapWindblock Wrap.  A shiny silver wrap can be used as a wind block during the winter. As honey bees are extremely efficient at producing heat, the biggest threat to the bees maintaining the temperature in the hive is actually wind. This reflective material blocks the wind and also prevents the sun from warming up the hive too much, which allows the bees to control their own temperature better.

The Beepods top bar hive uses what we like to refer to as our, Bee-rito Wrap, that fits perfectly around the contours of the hive while allowing just the right amount of ventilation along the bottom and ends of the hive.

Beepods Winterizing Kit

The Beepods Winterizing Kit was created and refined over years of trial and error to help our own honey bees survive the challenges of the frigid North America winters. The Beepods Winterizing Kit is essential for anyone concerned for the success of their honey bees overwintering in harsh cold weather, worried about mice sneaking into the hive to stay warm or for those wanting to harvest more honey in Spring. We at Beepods wish your bees a warm, happy and mouse-free winter.

Further Reading:

Scott Offord
Scott Offord
As an entrepreneur, Scott enjoys identifying and reaching new business markets, growing online communities and partnering with business start-ups. With a strong background in the field of web development, Scott currently focuses on online marketing strategy consulting. In his off time, Scott enjoys running various tech meetup groups. He also spends as much time as possible with his wife, his baby girl and his Great Dane.

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