Bee-ware of the Cold

Winter time for the bees is very similar to how some of us at the Bee Lab feel about the season: dislike of going outside, huddling for warmth, and a sincere desire for honey (mine for the hot tea I will inevitably drink while standing out near the cold hives). Bees do not hibernate, though, and do remain active during the winter, but at much lower levels. Bees will leave there hives occasionally on warmer days and during the warmer parts of the day so they can clean out fallen sisters from the bottom and defecate. Unfortunately, winter can also be a season of loss. The Bee Lab sadly saw a reduction of about half of the hives at the mid-point of October, although many of the remaining hives are alive and strong. Part of the reason for the losses could be due to a lack of preparation for the winter, especially after the honey harvest in July. Other causes could be due to the spread of viruses in the hives from Varroa Mite. The fall season revealed a high number of mites removed from the hives (anywhere from 500 to 2000 mites) after treating with formic acid and powdered sugar. Observation and analysis is going into the mite levels, population, and timing of hive loss to better understand why some hives survived while others did not. For now, our focus is to make sure the bees stay warm and that the hives are effectively weather-proof.

-Brooke Talbot

One response to “Bee-ware of the Cold

  1. I like the idea of not harvesting the honey until the following spring. That way the bees decide how much they need. There’s also another thing that I read recently…so many beekeepers will replace a queen when she slows down, but that may just be a ‘brood break.’ If you let the queen decide NOT to lay eggs, that might break up the mite load as well.

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