Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s cold! This time of year, our fellow beekeepers often ask us how to keep bees alive in winter. The good news is honeybees have adapted to stay alive even through freezing weather! The bad news is sometimes beginner beekeepers make mistakes with winter beekeeping that could hurt or even kill their colony.
The fact that you’re reading this blog post is an excellent sign for your bees’ health! Winter is the perfect time to learn more about beekeeping.
Yet especially if this is your first winter beekeeping, you may inadvertently harm your bees when you’re trying to protect them. Don’t make these beekeeping mistakes. Read on to learn how to properly set up your bees to survive the winter.
5 mistakes that can kill bees in winter
To keep bees alive in winter, avoid these common beekeeping mistakes. Avoiding these goofs will help keep your honeybees happy until spring!
Feeding bees pollen
Pollen provides protein to baby bees, helping the little buzzers grow big and strong to support the colony. Is winter the time you want your brood to make a bunch of new babies? No.
Beginning beekeepers sometimes get confused about when, what and if to feed their honeybees over the winter. Regardless of what you decide about other feeding practices, though, you can rest easy in knowing you shouldn’t feed overwintering bees pollen.
Feeding bees liquid syrup
If your bees didn’t have enough honey stored to get them through the winter, you may consider feeding them this winter. But you don’t want to feed them liquid syrup because they won’t eat it!
Honeybees stop eating liquid syrup once temperatures dip below 50 degrees. So if you do need to supplement bees’ honey stores, look into candy boards or fondant.
Opening up your hive in the cold
You’re a concerned beekeeper, so it’s natural you’d want to check on your bees. But opening up their warm, cozy hive in the winter can harm your colony.
If you expose your bees to cold weather by opening your hive, you’ll release the warm air they have created. They’ll have to expend extra energy to warm the hive back up. By peeking in on them, you might inadvertently damage—or even kill—your colony. So keep your curiosity buttoned up and leave your bees be (at least until a warm early spring day).
Improperly wrap your hive
When it’s cold out, we bundle up—so you might want to wrap your hive to keep your bees, too. But improperly wrapping a hive can do more harm than good.
Wrapping a hive can trap moisture between the outer wrap and the hive, causing the hive to lose heat. It may also create conditions that will grow mold, which can devastate honeybees in winter.
If you do decide to wrap your hive, leave a gap between the wrapping and the hive for air flow.
Cover the hive entrance
Your bees will mostly stay inside their hive all winter, but on warm days, some of the colony may take flight. They could be “cleansing”—kind of like running to the outhouse—or taking out dead bees.
If the entrance to the hive is blocked (for example by fallen debris or something you inadvertently left there), they can’t get out.
We hope you and your bees are faring well this winter! We’re excited to see what spring brings. Stay toasty!
PS - Do you know a beekeeper who could use this winter beekeeping info? Send along this article or share on Pinterest to help your fellow beekeepers!