Preparing bees for winter Bees wax by benbenzhou


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									                                PREPARING        BEES FOR WINTER

     You should engage in and carry out this work with the vow to include one thousand or ten
     thousand lives in one day or one time. This will allow you to unite with these virtuous karmic
     causes for ten million lives. The mind that has fully contemplated such fortune is joyful mind.
          --Taigen Daniel Leighton and Shohaku Okumura, trans. Eihei Dogen, “Instructions
            for the Tenzo”. p. 48

  Challenges                                Some suggestions for treatment
to the beehive
                   Varroa are the trigger for most of the problems of honey bees these days
                   including viruses and the CCD complex. Hives must be checked and treated
 Varroa Mites      before fall begins to better insure that colonies will make it into the spring. Use
                   formic acid in the form of MiteAway II or thymol in the form of Apigard. Follow
                   the directions recommended by the vendor. DO NOT use powdered sugar during
                   the cooler months.
Tracheal Mites     Formic acid and thymol applied in the fall will also take care of tracheal mites.
Queen failure/     Check the egg laying capacity of your queen NOW. If the pattern is not solid
  Poor queen       and elliptical, order a new queen and requeen or combine a weak hive with a
 performance       stronger hive.
                   Keep the hive in a location where it will receive as much sun as the decreasing
                   daylight allows. Make sure the entrance faces away from the wind. Wind
 Hive location     entering the entrance of the hive is a killer. Keep a brick or rock on your hive to
                   keep the lid from blowing off. If you live in a traditionally windy area, tie your
                   hive down with rope to your hive stand.
                   Honeybees can take low outside the hive temperatures, but excessive moisture
                   inside the hives stresses them out and lays them open for opportunistic disease.
   Excessive       Make sure your hive boxes bottoms and tops are uniformly placed together with
   moisture        no gaps. Provide ventilation at the top if you are using a traditional bottom
                   board. Use an inner cover. Repaint equipment if necessary. Don’t remove
                   propolis in the fall.
                   The hive should not be overly challenged in keeping itself warm. Remove all
Maximizing heat    supers down to the two deep super brood chamber. Use follower boards where
                   necessary. Separate any hive boxes that are not inhabited with bees with your
                   inner cover.
                   Only check your hives when the exterior temperature is 55 degrees or above and
 Chilled brood     then for only a few minutes. Most of what you will need to know about the bees
                   can be checked by watching the activity at the entrance, putting your ear near
                   the brood chamber, smelling the odor coming out of the hive.
                   Make sure you have 30 lbs. of honey left on a two box hive. Check your hive in
                   the fall by lifting it and check again periodically. If you are concerned, feed
Starvation and     honey or organic sugar in a bottle above your inner cover or use an interior
poor nutrition     feeder. Check to see if pollen is coming into your hive(s) this fall….check pollen
                   storage. If there is little stored pollen feed your bees. In most cases pollen is

A. Hawkins . . .ph/Tracy: 209/834-7156. . . .
                   not a problem in California.

                   Mice, voles, snakes, and yellow jackets may threaten the hive. Use an entrance
                   reducer to reduce the size of the entrance opening. This will provide a smaller
Keeping critters   space for the guard bees to protect. Also the reduced entrance will make it
     OUT           impossible for rodents and reptiles to enter. If yellow jackets seem
                   overwhelming staple a strip of 3/8” hardware cloth to the front of the entrance
                   reducer. If you lack the resources you can buy these ready made from Ruhl Bee
                   Most of the bacteria, spores, viruses etc. that cause problems for bees already
                   exist in our hives. To prevent them from getting a hold on your colony is to keep
                   your colonies as stress free as possible so requeen when necessary, keep the
                   mite load down, keep well fed, out of excessive moisture and wind, and don’t open
    Disease        the hive. Two diseases you should know are Nosema and American Foulbrood. I
                   have never had a case of Foulbrood and only one case of Nosema that actually
                   killed a colony. I have found from years of practice that the best prevention is
                   keeping hives strong and stress free. Some natural beekeepers advocate using
                   essential oils. See Michael Bush:
          Read Eric Mussen
                   on Nosema and American Foulbrood and their available treatments below:
                   Make sure that you store and cover all unused equipment. Don’t leave tools
Further Disease    exposed: clean them up and keep them away from moisture and. These items can
  Prevention       attract disease from diseased bees scavenging for food.

                   Often after the honey flow, honey bees will try to rob each others hive of honey.
                   This looks like war and is not a healthy sign in your bee yard. Often times it is
    Robbing        triggered when you extract and honey residues are left around. As a precaution,
                   be particularly scrupulous in cleaning up. Also use an entrance reducer, so the
                   guard bees of the hive will have a smaller space to protect the hive from
                   If you have one or more hives and one is weak and requeening is out of the
                   questions then you might consider combining the weaker hive with a stronger
                   hive. Follow these steps. (1) Check the weak hive and a strong hive for disease
                   and mites and take action before combining. (2) Remove the queen from the
                   weak hive. (3) Smoke your strong hive at the entrance and at the top and place
Combining hives    a piece of newspaper over the top of the hive. (4) Use your hive tool to cut
                   many two inch long slits on the newspaper that correspond to the area between
                   frames. (5) Smoke your weak hive and place it over the newspaper and walk
                   away. (6) What should happen is that the bees in the two hives will merge their
                   odors while chewing through the newspaper. This could take three days. This is
                   the classic method of hive combining and I have used it many time with excellent

A. Hawkins . . .ph/Tracy: 209/834-7156. . . .
1. Enjoy the fall and winter with the bees. Even though there is limited bee flight with the coming
of cooler weather, the cooler seasons present plenty of opportunity for bee enjoyment. Be aware
of all your senses around your hive:
     After a rainstorm
     When it is very cold
     After it is very cold
     When it is unseasonably warm
     When the earliest bloom appears

2. Repair, paint, and purchase and build new equipment. If you lost a hive, give all dead bees a
respectful burial and scorch with a utility torch the inside of your boxes, bottom board, and top to
remove possible disease residues. Store your frames and protect them from wax moth. Use Certan
if necessary (available at If the wax in your frames has already been
damaged by moth, scrape the old wax off using your hive tool and a torch and replace the starter
strip either with foundation strip, a strip of wood, or toung depressors glued in place. See Michael
Bush for more information:
Usually the bee supply places begin offering sales on beekeeping equipment between November and

3. Make a list of what worked for you this bee season and what you want to improve. The winter
months are a time to plan and dream of a new bee season. Also it is a time to decide if you want to
replace a dead hive or increase your number or hives. If you want to order packages, nucs, or
queens it is not to early to begin investigating where you want to get your bees…the beekeeping
journals are good places for this. February ordering from the breeders might be too late this year.
I will be ordering bees for workshop participants beginning in January and you can reach me
through my webpage. All bees are usually ready for delivery by the second week of April.

4. Keep informed. Next to man, the honeybee is the most studied and written about living
creature. Check my webpage for a resource list of books, websites, and visual information.
Subscribe to the American Beekeepers Journal and/or Bee Culture, monthly publications that have
developed a wider view of beekeeping to include the hobbyist, sideliner, and the beekeeper using
natural methods. Two books I highly recommend:
     Thomas D. Seeley, The Wisdom of the Hive; The Social Physiology of Honey Bee Colonies .
        Try to get this through inter-library loan as it is very expensive, but well worth the effort.
        Although academic, the summaries at the end of each section will provide you with the
        general information and inspire you to trudge through the details of scientific investigation.
        What makes this study useful to the beekeeper is that Seeley investigates how bees handle
        information and how this leads to allocation of labor in the hive. Descriptions of honey,
        pollen, and water collection; the decision process in creating a new queen; how and why
        tasks are arrived at are some of the issues discussed. The hive is unveiled as a whole
        organism rather than a functioning of individual parts.
     Jurgen Tautz, The Buzz about Bees; Biology of a Superorganism. Just recently translated
        from German into English, this is a wonderful book. Tautz describes the hive as a

A. Hawkins . . .ph/Tracy: 209/834-7156. . . .
       “superorganism”; a self organizing and complex adaptive system based on a network of
       communications. An organism with more similarities to mammals than to insects. The entire
       range of bee activities is described with remarkable photographs. Also, expensive, this
       book is well worth owning.

Both of these books are the result of recent careful studies and are at the cutting edge of current
honeybee research. If I had time for just one to read, I would choose Tautz’s book.

5. Plan to plant a bee garden and encourage more pollinators. Spend some time looking over these
sources for bee friendly plant varieties: The Melissa Garden,; Attracting Native Bees to your Garden,; Urban
Bee Gardens,

6. Build an observation hive. You can watch bee behavior inside the hive through the seasons. Here
are a set of do-able plans:

A. Hawkins . . .ph/Tracy: 209/834-7156. . . .

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