Getting Ready for Winter

by Rick van Vliet on October 25, 2011

Well, it’s been a season.  Trees have lost most of their leaves, World Series is an exciting match-up, and the bees are just about done flying for the year.

Some of the beekeepers I know are sending their girls to Florida for the winter (some like it hot…) Dale Wolf sent about 25 0 hives and my mentor Dan Klasen sent his 20 hives with Sarah Rushfeldt, NW regional Wisconsin Honey Queen. Sarah at 22, has been working with honey bees since she was eight, and has about 100 hives. This year she’s working a new business by hauling bees to Florida for the winter.

As for my single hive at Zweber Farm (“east”)…we’re just going to feed them til it gets too cold so they’ve made enough winter honey to make it through. We’re also going to wrap the hive with black tarpaper to help keep the wind out, and to help absorb the winter sun’s warmth. The bees themselves will work to keep themselves warm by huddling together into a tight cluster and humming. Literally.

As the cold sets in, the bees have kicked the drones out (Don’t worry…the colony will make some new drones towards spring), they’ll huddle more closely together and to keep themselves warm, they can unhitch their wings from the muscles and they’ll vibrate those wing muscles to generate heat. Remember…they’ve figured this out after 150-million years!

I’ve put 2 1-gallon pails of heavy syrup in the upper level of the hive. The pails’ lids are perforated and the bees can suck out the syrup and take it down into the hive, where they store it for winter. We’ve built up about 100 pounds of honey for their winter. Hope it’s enough.

I’ve got some pictures that Cindy took while I checked the pails (out of two gallons, we’re down about a gallon in three weeks), and a couple of videos. Here, you see a dark opening below the pails — that’s a rectangular hole cut in the inner cover. (As always, click the image to see a nice close up, in a new window)

pulling a feeder pail

Feeding the bees

The first video shows the inverted pails, and the bees going in and out of the inner cover. This inner cover sits at the top of the second story of two deep hive boxes.

Second video shows the girls flying in and out of the reduced entrance. (During the spring and fall, an ‘entrance reducer’ is placed in the main entrance, to make the total entry area about 4 inches. This week, we rotated the reducer to its smallest position…about an inch. In summer, we remove the reducer completely to give them a full 19-inch landing zone/entrance.) This video has the best buzz, even though I moved the camera around too much 😉

 

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