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11 Easy Steps On How To Winterize A Beehive

How To Winterize A Beehive

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Bees work hard for almost the entire year for winter preparation. But all the time they are not enough to prepare themselves to survive the winter.

Extra moisture control, food shortage, mite infection, and so many problems occur during winter for a bee colony. Bees are not sufficient enough to do the best for the colony.

As a beekeeper, we need to do something for the colony. Our job is to help them to survive the winter safely and peacefully. We can’t do more than that. 

As we prepare our bees for the winter and make the beehive more safe for the bees we call it winterizing a beehive. So, why winterizing the hive is so important? Also, how to winterize a beehive?

These questions might appear in your mind. Don’t worry you are in the right place. Just hold on and patiently follow my instructions. You will find the answer to almost every question related to winterizing a beehive. I will guide you with 11 simple steps to winterize your beehive.

By following my instructions from this post you will be able to give your bees a warm and safe winter. As well as you will help them to survive another winter strongly and efficiently.



What Is Winterizing A Beehive?

Well, winterizing a beehive means preparing the colony to face and survive the winter. During winter food shortages, very cold temperatures and so many problems arrive. So, bees need to be prepared to face these types of bad situations.

Beekeepers with bees really work hard before winter to prepare their colony to survive the cold season. Winterizing a hive includes providing enough food, and shelter, keeping them warm, ensuring safety against diseases, etc throughout the winter.

Steps For Winterizing A Beehive
Steps For Winterizing A Beehive




Why Winterizing A Beehive Is Important?

Bees can’t tolerate too cold weather. During winter bees become inactive. So, there is probably a scarcity of food, and they need to work hard to control extra moisture inside the hive. It’s really a tough time for them. If you don’t help them they might die.

This is why we need to winterize our hives and prepare our colony to face the harsh winter. Bees need warm weather to go out from the hive and collect pollen. When it is too cold they will cluster together inside the hive and will not be able to go outside to collect pollen.

But the queen and larvae need a constant food supply. If such situations exist then there would be a scarcity of nutrients as a result the colony will become weaker. Even the entire colony can die if you are already late to take the necessary steps.




When Should You Winterize Bees?

You should start winterizing your bees at least 1 to 2 months before the winter is started. During fall you might see bees behave more aggressively. That is because they are having a scarcity of food and they are working more to prepare themselves for the winter. That’s why you should start helping them during the early fall.

When winter has already arrived then you will be too late for winterizing your hive. Because you may not start studying on the exam day without studying in the past. You should study before the exam day, not during the exam.

The same thing applies to beehives. Winter survival preparation should take place before winter and not during winter. I hope you got it.



Should I Wrap My Beehive For Winter?

It actually depends on your local region and how harsh the temperature is in your area during winter. If it is too cold or too foggy then wrapping the hive will give your bees a cozy vibes inside the hive. So, bees will be very happy if you can wrap your beehive during the cold.

If you are living in an area where winter is not too foggy or the temperature is always no less than 18º C then you don’t need to wrap your beehive for winter. 

Beekeepers living in an area having less than that temperature might require to wrap their beehives for winter.



Beehive Temperature In Winter?

You should try to take the necessary steps to provide a temperature of at least 32º C inside the beehive in winter. Because bees cluster together inside the hive when there is too cold. And their cluster temperature is between 32º C to 37º C. 

So, you should help them in such a way that they can maintain a sufficient temperature inside the hive without working too hard.

If there is uncontrolled moisture there might start building of molds on frames.




How To Winterize A Beehive (Step By Step)

Winterizing a beehive includes the following steps.

  1. Providing sufficient food storage.
  2. Reducing extra space.
  3. Taking out extra honey super.
  4. Insulating the hive for winter.
  5. Ensuring Proper ventilation.
  6. Mite treatment.
  7. Reducing hive entrance.
  8. Combining weak colonies.
  9. Remove Queen Excluder (Must)
  10. Helping queenless hive if present.
  11. Don’t inspect your hive too often during winter.

These are the steps you can go through for winterizing a beehive. Now let’s dig into deep how you can winterize your beehive following these 11 steps.


Step-1: Ensure Sufficient Food Storage

During winter it’s become very tough for bees to go outside and collect pollen. So, they need a reservation of food inside the hive to survive the winter. So, you should provide sufficient food storage to help them survive the winter.

You might be wondering what is the best feeder for your bees for winter. Actually, there are multiple choices but I found the poly ashforth feeder works best for winter. I am using this particular feeder to feed my bees for the entire year.

Food Storage For Bees

Make sure to place the feeder during fall and before winter is knocking at the door. If possible try to feed them fondant, sugar candy, or granulated sugar. Because during winter sugar syrup is not the best choice for them to feed. As liquid food is not appropriate when the temperature falls.



Step-2: Reduce Extra Space

If there is any unnecessary element inside the hive you should remove it. Because the more space inside the hive more work needs to be done by the bees to keep the hive warm. 

So, if you are using a double brood box system. You should remove the second brood box before winter. Also, you can remove unnecessary honey supers and other stuff from your beehive. Give bees as less space during winter as possible inside the hive.


Beehive Tighten With Rope

You can also tie the entire beehive to keep everything stuck together. This will also effectively reduce extra space. Also, it will prevent splitting any part of your hive during wind or storm.



Step-3: Remove Honey Super If Possible

If your honey harvest is done during fall, remove extra honey super. This will reduce the space inside the hive as well as it will also prevent reproduction during winter.

Reproduction during winter might welcome infecting diseases like varroa mites. Because viruses and bacteria attack the colony through the bee broods during the larvae phase. Moreover, expanding the colony during winter creates trouble in providing sufficient food. As already there is limited food storage.

That’s why if possible remove extra honey super. But make sure there is still sufficient honey left for the current colony.



Step-4: Hive Insulation

Insulation of a hive just before the winter is must necessary. If you don’t insulate your hive from cold then I am sorry but your colony is going to pass a terrible winter.

Without proper insulation and ventilation, your colony will become weak and also can die. You can use an insulation board or net for insulating the hive from the cold.



How Do You Insulate Hives For Winter?

Well, different beekeepers follow different rules for insulating their hives. In my case, I prefer top insulation and bottom ventilation. But you can go with top ventilation and bottom insulation if your weather is too cold during the maximum time of the winter.

In the case of top ventilation, there is a chance of condensation on the roof. So, when the temperature slightly increased water may start dripping down on your bees consistently. This can wet the bottom of the hive and it can kill your bees.

But if you are living in a region where snowfall and very very cold weather is common during winter like Canada, USA, etc you can go with top ventilation bottom insulation.

Bubble Wrap
Bubble Wrap

Well, for insulating your hive for winter you can follow the below steps.

  1. Make sure there is no entrance at the top of your hive. Only a small bottom entrance is preferred.
  2. Use a hive wrap to cover the outside of your beehive using any insulating material. Bubble wrap, insulating board, etc are famous for hive wrapping.
  3. Try to give space between the hive cover and the top of the hive box so that moisture can’t build up.
  4. You can also use an insulation cover to insulate the roof.



Step-5: Ensure Proper Ventilation

Ensuring proper ventilation is no less important than ensuring proper insulation. I have already talked about this issue in the previous step. You must ensure proper ventilation inside your hive so that moisture doesn’t build up inside the hive.


Beehive Ventilation Board
Beehive Ventilation Board

For a too-cold atmosphere, you can help your bees by placing a quilt or moisture board inside your hive. Any of these boards will help you to provide proper ventilation throughout the winter and will keep your bees dry and warm. 



Step-6: Mite Treatment

You should complete the necessary might and pest treatment before winter. You can measure the number of mites in your hive by taking a portion of nurse bees and experimenting with them.

If you notice too many mites there you should remove them. You can remove mites by brushing them using a child brush. You can also use essential oil to remove them.

But don’t think of using bleach water for this case. Because bleach will force your bees to swarm. Also, soaking bees with bleach will kill them. You can also use powdered sugar for treating mites it also works well. 

If you notice earwigs in your hive. You should take the necessary steps to remove earwigs from your hive before winter. You may use various traps or any other ways to remove mites.

Remember if a large portion of your hive is infected by varroa mite it’s cruel but unfortunately, you have to destroy the entire colony. Otherwise, this colony might infect your other colonies.



Step-7: Reduce The Hive Entrance

During winter strangers like mice and mites can come inside your hive for shelter. As outside is too cold and usually a beehive is a warmer place. This attracts other mice and mites to take shelter inside a beehive. 

That’s why you should reduce the hive entrance right before the winter. You should keep the hive entrance so that bees can pass through it bother other harmful mites can’t.

Hive Entrance
Hive Entrance

The ideal size of a hive entrance should be not more than 1.5 inches in diameter. You should keep the hive entrance within the limit to prevent strangers from causing damage to your hives.



Step-8: Combine Weak Colonies

If you have a weak colony it is better to combine them with a strong colony before winter. But before combining the weak colony you should find the exact reason why the colony became weak. If there is varroa mite or other harmful diseases you shouldn’t combine the colony with other strong colonies.

Combining disease-containing colonies with strong colonies will force you to sacrifice the strong colony too. That’s why you should sacrifice and kill the colony that has varroa mites or similar diseases.

If the weak colony doesn’t have any harmful disease you can split the hive properly and combine it with a strong colony.



Step-9 Remove Queen Excluder

You should remove the queen excluder before winter. Because during winter bees will cluster together so their cluster can cause damage to the queen if the excluder is present. As a result, the queen can die and your hive may become queenless. That’s why it is a must you should remove the queen excluder before winter has arrived.



Step-10 Help Queenless Hive

You should look for the queen on your every hive before winter. If you find any queenless hive, you should take the necessary steps before winter. Because a queenless hive won’t be able to survive the winter.

So, you should try to requeen the queenless hive before winter. Or you can combine the queenless colony with one or more strong colonies having a queen.



Step-11 Inspect Less

During winter inspecting the hive too often might cause disturbance to the hive. During cold it’s become tough for bees to keep warm inside the hive. If you open the hive entrance during the cold it can be worse for them. Inspecting the hive during winter too often will drive more cold and moisture inside the hive.

That’s why during winter you should limit the hive inspection to no more than twice per month. If there isn’t any necessity don’t inspect them during winter and leave them alone. In case of your bees need help then inspect the hive under the ideal condition for hive inspection.

Make sure the colony is in good condition before winter. Also, provide them with sufficient food storage for the survival of the winter. And ensure other necessary winterizing of hive steps so that you don’t need to inspect the hive during winter.


These are the 11 simple steps you can follow on how to winterize a beehive. Now, I am going to answer some beekeepers related questions according to my own beekeeping experience.




Do You Leave Honey Supers On Over Winter?

In my case, I remove extra honey supers over winter. I don’t like to harvest honey during winter as it could be harmful to bees. I completed harvesting honey in the fall and remove the extra super after ensuring there is enough honey left for the bees.

Also, the extracted honey needs to be stored in a honey warming cabinet during winter. You can build the honey warming cabinet on your own easily.



What Do You Feed Bees In The Winter?

I don’t feed sugar syrup to bees during winter. Because liquid foods won’t be helpful to keep their body warm. That’s why I usually feed bees granulated sugar if I found there is a shortage of honey. 

If your hive has enough honey storage then you don’t have to feed them extra food. In case of a shortage of honey storage, you can feed your bees with granulated sugar in a paper, candy cake, sugar candy, or a 2:1 sugar and water mixture. But don’t feed them in freezing temperatures.



How Do You Feed Bees In The Winter?

Well, the main food for bees during winter should be honey. Honey is produced by bees themselves and this is their primary food. In case, there is a scarcity of honey shortage beekeepers like to feed them with supplements of honey. It can be sugar candy, granulated, or any other sugar containing foods. 

I would like to feed my bees all over the year in a poly Ashford feeder. During winter I am not doing other than that. I put granulated sugar on paper so that they can absorb it when there is a scarcity of honey.

In the poly ashford feeder I gave my own made honey supplement for the bees. I made it using sugar water and vinegar. The mixture is made with the following ratio.

  1. 8 cups of sugar.
  2. 3 cups of water.
  3. 1 tablespoon of vinegar.

I take sugar more than people usually follow a 2:1 sugar and water ratio. So that the mixture is not too liquid and safe to take during winter. I keep it slightly warm around 100º F. Then I add it to the poly Ashford feeder.



How Do You Keep Moisture Out Of Hives?

I already told you that I like top insulation and bottom ventilation for keeping moisture out of hives. Bees need a lot to keep moisture out of the hive. We can help them easily by ensuring ventilation and insulation during winter.

I have used a moisture board in the past and currently using a quilt board inside my beehives. It really effectively helps me to keep moisture out of my hives.




Final Thoughts On Beehive Winterization

Beekeepers need to work almost the whole year for winter preparation. But the important season and the best time to start winterizing a hive is the fall season. After following my 11 steps on how to winterize a beehive. You will be able to give your bees nice, chill, and warm winter.

Don’t forget to pick the right spot to place your beehive. Picking the right spot for a beehive is also a key to keep bees healthy.

To build a successful apiary you must help your bees to live peacefully in every season. In the case of winter, they need extra care. So, it’s your task to give them the necessary care and help them to prepare for the winter. Have a healthy apiary!

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