Connie and I went to the Howard County Beekeepers meeting where Jerry Fischer, the Maryland State Apiary Inspector was the speaker. He covered preparing the bees for winter and he mentioned a few interesting things, italics are my additions:
1. You may know that the winter cluster of bees consists of bees huddled over frames of brood and honey, which usually spans between two hive bodies. If that is the case, when you hear “don’t break the cluster”, it means don’t reverse the two hive bodies as you would in spring. I would assume that this also means if your bees are confined to one box then don’t move the frames the bees are on.
2. Cluster temperature (when not over brood) is usually 25 to 30° above the outside temperature.
3. In our area, you can assume that the bees created after September 1st are the winter bees. All of the bees born by the end of August will be dead by Christmas.
4. They recommend one deep of honey/sugar syrup or 2 mediums for the winter.
5. Every gallon of 2:1 sugar syrup equals 7 lbs of winter stores. That makes sense as one gallon of water is 8 lbs, adding 10 lbs sugar increases the volume to 2 gallons and the bees still have to drive off the moisture to cap it.
6. Bees seldom consume more than 15 lbs of food between November and December. After the winter solstice is when consumption increases rapidly as the queen starts to lay again.
7. When the outside temperatures are greater than 47°, the bees can move on the honey and change their location. Lower temperatures trap them in place.
8. Bees CANNOT cluster on foundation, it must at least be drawn comb. So for those of you who have just started beekeeping, make sure you leave the bees only with drawn comb and not unworked foundation. Remove the undrawn frames and put nothing in their place, just make sure the frames left are in a group with no empty space in between them.
9. There are approximately 2800 packages sent to Maryland beekeepers every spring. Take care of your bees and you won’t be one of them.
10. Black locust and tulip poplar are the major flows in our area; having drawn comb for the honey supers will greatly increase your honey harvest.
11. To be a good beekeeper you need to understand the biology and habitat of the honey bee.
So how is my winter prep going? I have the four hives and they all appear to be coming along very nicely.
-Melissa, the orange hive is 2 deeps and one medium, there is one unworked frame of foundation which I expect to be drawn out this week.
-Demeter, the purple hive is two deeps, one undrawn frame of foundation
-Peony, the pink hive is one deep and one medium, there are 2 undrawn frames in the deep
-Aphrodite, the teal hive is 2 deeps with most of the frames drawn (about 8 were drawn in 2 weeks!).
I did not treat for mites this year, I hope that wasn’t a mistake, I’ll talk about that another time.
Since the end of July I have fed them 218 lbs of sugar. I was mixing 8 lbs of water and 10 lbs of sugar, I have now thickened it to 6 lbs of water and 10 lbs of sugar. I stopped feeding the purple and orange hives and as of this weekend I am just feeding the 2 new hives. The pink hive took 2 quarts in one day, I added more today and will keep filling it as needed. The teal hive actually strengthened quite a bit in the past 2 weeks, I was pleasantly surprised.
I hope everyone’s winter preparations are going well and we all come out of the winter with live bees! It’s getting surprisingly cold here for Maryland.