miscellaneous musings wintering

Mountain melancholy signals a change of season

I call it mountain melancholy. It’s a feeling that washes over me on certain fall days when an arctic breeze seeps under my jacket and bigleaf maple leaves crunch underfoot. It happens when I taste the sweet/tart tang of a new apple, inhale the smoldering warmth of a wood fire, or see the orange tip of a chanterelle peeking through the moss. It happens during those moments when I watch my bees laboring under the last pollen loads of autumn.

I’m an upbeat kind of person, so these moments of sadness catch me off guard. It comes, I think, because I want to hold on to the beauty of the moment . . . because the long dark rainy days of winter will soon follow . . . and because I will miss my bees.

Miss bees? Absolutely! To me a bee is a co-inhabitant of planet earth with an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Honey bees make my life better. If I can make theirs better, it’s a win-win.

I’ve done what I can for this year. The colonies are prepared for winter. They’ve been checked for diseases and treated for mites. Honey stores are high. Entrances are reduced. They have enough ventilation, but not too much. “Bring it on,” I hear them say. They are ready for the season.

My home is prepared as well: wood is split and stacked, fruits and veggies are canned, irrigation lines are shut down. Swarm traps are clean and stored, pheromone lures are tucked away, flower boxes are empty.

So I shake the mountain melancholy and get to work. Winter is the time to repair supers, build frames, assemble section boxes, and paint new equipment. And life goes on. Before my bees fly again another Thanksgiving, another Christmas, another turn of the calendar, and another birthday will have passed.

In a sense, my bees and I go our separate ways for the winter. They do their thing, and I do mine. But we will meet again—on that first unseasonably warm day of late winter when the mercury spikes to 60 degrees and the bees decide to stretch their wings.

It’s the same day I start planning my garden and my husband starts complaining about the gooey yellow spots on his car . . . it gives me a shiver just to think about it. I can hardly wait.



  • I know how you feel, I already miss my bees, although I haven’t prepped them entirely for winter yet. To be honest I’m a little lost on that part. Hopefully I do them well and they survive. Did you do anything to prevent mice moving it?

  • Michelle,

    In my Langstroths I use a very small lower entrance (3/4 inch by 1/4 inch) in the winter to prevent mice. I know a small mouse could get through that, but so far I’ve never had one move in. I have ventilation holes at the very top of the hives, but they are screened from the inside.

    My tbh normally has three entrance holes that are each 1 inch in diameter. I put corks in either one or two of these during the winter. I’ve had mice in the tbh before, but I believe they came in through the varroa screening in the bottom. I had a plastic material there last year which the mice ate right through; this year I replaced it with metal screening. Since it is more wet than cold here, I keep the varroa screens partially opened all winter long to provide ventilation. I imagine your winters are more cold than wet, so folks there probably do it differently.

    It’s been my experience that mice actively move to a sheltered place during the first cold days of fall. You could put spring traps around the base of your hive and leave them there until the first snowfall. After that, mice probably won’t be a problem until the spring.

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