Follow these fall beekeeping tasks to get your honey bees ready for winter.
Fall is a busy time for beekeepers. It’s the time to prepare your hives for the cold winter ahead. With help from Blain’s Farm & Fleet, you can get your hive ready for the first cold snap with our fall beekeeping tasks checklist.
1. Put a mouse guard on the hive entrance – This should come as no surprise, but mice look for warm, enclosed spaces for winter nesting. Mix that with a food supply of honeycomb, and your beehive is the perfect destination for a mouse. If they get in your hive, they’ll chew through not only the comb, but the hive frames to make their nest. You can protect your investment by putting up a simple mouse guard or entrance reducer. You can buy an entrance reducer or make your own. You can make your own with a piece of angled iron or other metal. Drill the guard or angled metal into the lower entrance of your beehive.
2. Check for honey reserves – A big part of fall beekeeping is making sure your bees have enough honey stored up for winter. It’s best to check the hive at the end of October or beginning of November. Most bees will save up honey to get them through to spring, but some weaker hives may not have enough honey stored. To help remedy a low food supply, you can make a sugar board to get your bees through the winter.
In northern climates, beehives need at least 60 pounds of honey as winter starts. If you’re in a warmer climate, you may only need between 30 and 40 pounds of honey. As you head into spring, consider planting flowers that can help your bees with honey production.
3. Inspect your bees – Make sure that your queen is in the hive. A queen is recognizable by her longer, skinnier body than drones or worker bees. You should also look for eggs, not just larvae. If there are eggs present in cells, that means the queen is present. If you need to requeen your hive, early fall is the best time to do so. This gives the colony plenty of time to adapt to the new queen and for the queen to lay eggs before winter hits.
4. Insulate the beehive – If you live in an area where the temperature gets below freezing in winter, this is especially important. One of the easiest ways to protect your hive is by wrapping it with black tar paper. Make sure to not cover upper ventilation holes or the entrance. The paper will absorb heat from the winter sun and regulate hive temperatures. It can also help as a windbreak.
Beekeeping can be a challenge, but the sweet rewards of honey and beeswax are well worth it. For more tips on keeping your beehive thriving, visit our beekeeping blog.