Hey folks! We're approaching winter, so here are a few tips on getting your hives ready!
First and foremost, food. We recommend overwintering in two deeps, with about 100+ pounds of honey in them. If they don't have enough weight, feed them 2:1 syrup (2 pounds of sugar for 1 pound of water; a gallon of water weighs 8 pounds).
Put on an entrance reducer to keep out the mice (pesky, greedy, freeloaders). It helps with robbers as well; if we get a warm snap in November, the girls might come out and try to steal each others' stores, since there's no forage.
Do you have mites? Treat. This is the time of year when varroa can really explode in population and wreak havoc with your bees. I think nearly all treatments need warm weather, so get on this one quickly before the weather turns. With any mite treatment you risk losing your queen, so you have to consider mite loads versus that risk. If the mite loads are high, might as well treat; you'll likely lose the hive anyway.
Weatherize. If you live in a snowy area, consider an upper entrance. That can be as simple as pushing the top deep back to expose a bee's width of the frames in the lower deep. This keeps a large snowfall from burying the lower one, and suffocating the hive.
If you're in a windy area, consider a wind break, like wrapping the hives in tyvec or tar paper. Or a physical barrier like hay bales or a fence. I'm on a windy hill, so I'll actually move my hives into an old horse run-in that faces east, but blocks the westerly winds. I had good luck with that last year. Out at the club hives, we are pretty sheltered, and wrapping or not doesn't seem to matter as much.
A block of foam insulation under the outer cover can help with keeping the top of the hive (the inner cover) from icing over, which can melt and potentially rain down on your bees. Wet bees are dead bees in the wintertime.
Then all you can do is let them be, and hope for the best. Don't muck about with them in the winter, be very, very frugal mucking about with them in the spring (another hazardous time of year).
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