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Cabin (Hive) Fever

snowy hives

This is the time of year when many of us are longing for the warm days of Spring to arrive, but this year we are truly besieged in full-on winter weather. Usually by the first of February in Georgia, it’s beginning to warm up enough that we can check on our hives to see how they are faring from over wintering. So far, it’s been much too cold to open the hive. When the temperature is going to be below freezing at night, you just don’t want to risk opening the hive. This winter has been cold -- so we haven’t opened the hives at all. We do try to keep some honey out for the bees, just in case they need food. (It’s important that you do NOT use store bought honey to feed your bees though. Store bought honey can contain contaminants and is often heat treated.) It’s been so cold though, that we have to make sure the honey doesn’t freeze. When it warms up a bit more, we will put out some sugar water for them.

Condensation is one of the most dangerous issues bees have to face during winter. In the north, condensation in a hive over winter is lethal to honey bees. And it’s been cold enough this winter in the south that this could be an issue for our bees. Even though it’s not warm enough to open up the hive and check on the bees, you can do a visual surveillance of your hive to determine that water is not building up in or around the hive. Having a small upper and lower entrance will help to adequately ventilate the hive while avoiding condensation. Make sure hives are not placed in hollows and low land where airflow becomes trapped by the landscape features. Also look for water pooling and flooding. A slight elevation in the back of the hive can aid in water drainage, eliminating moisture in the hive.

We hope that these tips will help you maintain your hive the rest of the winter. We are looking forward to warmer days when we can open up our hives and do a full inspection!


Bees Clustering In Cold Weather

Our days are getting shorter, and the temperatures are getting colder. As the weather gets colder, the bees are going to form a cluster in the hive. This cluster is a mechanism to produce heat. Much like the penguins in the Antarctic, bees rotate from the center of the hive to the outside. The center of the cluster is the warmest, the outside is the coolest. One beekeeper in France measured the temperature of the center of the cluster at 95° F, the outside of the cluster was 71° F, and the outside temperature was 44° F. So don’t expect to see your bees out and about this winter...they’ll be keeping themselves warm!

You do want to keep an eye on your bees to see if they need extra feeding. It’s important to leave at least one super of honey in the hive so that the bees can survive the winter. We like to offer ours sugar water (2 parts sugar, one part water) as well, so that way the honey lasts longer and the bees get the nutrients throughout the winter. It is important that you never feed bees sugar with additives. Powdered sugar, brown sugar and commercial fondant all contain additives that could cause honey bee dysentery. Feel free to add a feeding stimulant to your sugar water to replace the nutrients bees would normally find in honey.

Because you aren’t as busy now with your hives are you are in the Spring and Summer, now is a good time to catch up on your reading. We have many helpful books on beekeeping. A staff favorite is “Beekeeping for Dummies.” This book educates you on the tools of the trade, including complete instructions for building and maintaining beehives; offers detailed and easy-to-follow guidelines for all phases of honey production--including harvesting, bottling, packaging and marketing your honey; explores theories into the recent unexplained collapse of colonies and its environmental and economic on society; and provides new information on mites and diseases and recommend changes in bee medication and treatments.

As always, feel free to contact us if you have any questions about your bees. Until next month, happy beekeeping!