Protecting Your Beehives from Frosty this Winter

winter snow hive

If winter isn’t already here in your part of the country, it is on its way! Cold snaps, fronts, and waves are being prepared nationwide. If beekeepers have yet to winterize, they have some work to do to help ensure their precious beehives are protected from Frosty this winter. Beekeeping is a year-round job, and although incredibly rewarding, it does take work to prepare and safeguard beehives in the winter, so everything is in an ideal state next spring. Taking some measures upfront makes a difference in the health of the beehives when spring rolls around. Winter can be daunting, especially in areas where snow is a regular occurrence over the next several months. Add to this labor-intensive time of year multiple beehives that need oversight. It makes sense why beekeepers gladly unite to help each other best prepare for the cold and frosty months.

Honeybees Are Good at Winterizing

Some bee species are pretty efficient at preparing on their own for the cold winter months, but others need more assistance from their caring beekeeper. Honeybees are excellent at planning ahead, and they prepare year-round for winter. Since their life cycle revolves around swarming and stockpiling what they need to survive the frost, they are arguably the best prepared bees during this season.

Other beekeepers should connect with others in their area to find out popular and effective winterizing techniques. As beekeepers prepare for winter, many begin at the end of summer, but it is never too late to take measures to ensure the hive can survive the winter and not be a victim to Mr. Frost! Ideally, when humidity decreases and the nectar flow slows down, beekeepers can begin the winterization process for their hives. However, beware! Beekeepers need to be careful not to over-meddle and interfere too much. If bees do not have the opportunity to do some of the work themselves, it can be counter-productive and weaken the species’ survival over time. So, to all you helicopter beekeepers, please leave as much for the bees to do as they can naturally when it comes to storing up what they need for the winter months.

Storing up for Winter

Bees store as much as they can before winter, and this is an excellent opportunity for beekeepers to get a real sense of the food storage space in each hive. This is also a popular time to remove some honey, but the amount should be thoughtfully decided and adhered to. Especially in new hives, it is better not to harvest the first year, allowing time for the hives to flourish and get healthy. Harvesting should be reserved for more established colonies. The beekeeping community is vast, and everyone has the same focus – help the bees, so work with beekeepers in your area. Ask what guidelines others in your area follow because this will vary on the climate and landscape specific to your hives’ locations.

New beekeepers will face more challenges regarding storage and honey harvesting. However, more seasoned beekeepers are often more than willing to share their experience and give guidance when requested.

Feeding Bees in the Winter

Although eager to help bees prepare for winter, beekeepers should only initiate feeding if necessary. The syrup beekeepers use for food is not as complex as the nutritionally rich food they provide themselves. One of the main mistakes new beekeepers make is believing they can supplement the bee diet entirely and interfere too much and too often. Providing too much support for bees can make them lazy (for lack of a better term) and weaken the beehive, so it has more and more difficulty supporting itself in the future. Weakened genetics are the opposite of what beekeepers and bee enthusiasts around the work are trying to achieve. However, heed this advice! Letting precious beehives perish due to cold weather and lack of food is never a better option! This is a fine line that all beekeepers must walk every winter. Providing some food may be necessary for the hive to survive through the winter, but every hive is individual and should be treated as such. Beekeeping is not one size for all and finding an experienced beekeeper in your area can be invaluable!

As we are halfway through November, if you are a beekeeper and have yet to think about winterizing your hives, please use this as an opportunity to get going! In some colder climates, where freezing is expected, beekeepers may want to use hive blankets to help prevent the heat from escaping so quickly. Again, using anything new on your hives for the first time should be done cautiously and thoughtfully. There are companies that provide bee blankets but find out the parameters of use, so your hives are safe and accessible during the winter.