honey bee management

It’s time to think about over-wintering

When I went outside this morning I was reminded of October. It was about 48 degrees F, misty, windy, and dark. The word “July” would never enter my mind if I didn’t know better. So while the rest of the country is sweltering in record-breaking heat, I am thinking of winter preparations for my hives.

No matter where you live, fall can sneak up on you. In the past I have found that the sooner I start preparing my bees for winter, the better off they are come spring. In a way, it’s never too soon to start.

So what do I mean by “winter preparations?” Here are some things to think about:

  • Do your hives have enough stores—honey and pollen—to make it until spring? A late spring?
  • Are you going to do late summer and fall supplementary feeding?
  • Are your Varroa mites under control? If not, what will you do about them?
  • Have you inspected your hives for other diseases and parasites?
  • Are your queens strong? If you need to re-queen before winter, have you ordered queens?
  • Are your colonies strong? If not, will you be combining, equalizing, or running double-queen hives?
  • Do you have enough entrance reducers to protect your colonies against robbers and yellow jackets?
  • Is your equipment in good shape? Do you need to do any mending, repairing, sanding, or painting? Do you need to order any parts?
  • Do you have a plan for over-wintering? In other words, are you going to provide supplementary food, insulation, ventilation, or windbreaks?

It’s helpful to take a notebook to your apiary and jot down the situation in each hive. What’s good, what’s bad, what needs to be repaired, purchased, or changed? From your notes you can make a plan, a shopping list, and a to-do list. It may seem like winter is a long way off but the autumnal equinox (September 22) is only 62 days away—or about 1488 hours from now!


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