Bees in Winter

Bees in winter typically don't need any special care as long as they are a healthy, full-sized colony, but if you want to increase your brood strength, some extra steps are called for.

With large enough numbers, most hives can produce enough heat to stay warm even in sub-zero temperatures. While they may be a bit more irritable in winter (you would be too, if you were cooped up in a hive all winter), they typically make it to spring just fine.

But if you want a truly strong hive in the spring - one that will produce enough brood so you can split your hive, then a few extra precautions will help your hive be healthy and productive.

Protecting Your Hive

If you have a small hive, and if the weather where you live gets especially cold in the winter months, you can help your hive stay warm by placing a wind block on the north side of your hive.

Placing black tar paper on the north side will help absorb the sun's heat in the winter, also helping your hive stay warm. And of course, bees in winter will fare far better if the hive's entrance is facing the south rather than the north.

Feeding Your Bees in Winter

Bees get the crucial protein they need from pollen. Typically they store enough pollen to last them through the winter, and if they haven't stored enough protein, they will stop making drones and eventually brood. If you want your bees to produce extra brood in the early spring, you can provide them with a pollen substitute. A pollen substitute will also help your bees remain healthy and strong during the harsh winter months.

Pollen substitute is available from most beekeeping suppliers. If the weather is warm and dry, you can set pollen substitute out in a bucket tipped on its side near the hive. (If it's wet out, the substitute will mold pretty quickly). You can also either purchase or make a pollen patty for your bees. Add the patty to your hive only if the weather outside is 50 degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. It will be like a vitamin boost for your bees.

Pollen Patty Recipe

You can make a pollen patty for your bees using the following recipe:

  • One and a half cups soy flour
  • One half cup of brewer's yeast
  • One and a half cups granulated sugar
  • Three fourths cup of hot water

Mix together the dry ingredients and set aside. Add the sugar to the hot water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, making a syrup. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the syrup until the mixture resembles a stiff bread dough. Press your patties between wax paper.

Your bees are slower and don't move about as much in the hive in the winter so you will want the patty to be as close to your cluster of bees as possible. Place your patty near your cluster of bees with the wax paper side up. Bees in the winter months will appreciate the vitamin boost and will be healthier and stronger through the cold months.

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