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What Do Bees Do in the Winter?

While you were wrapping presents, caroling and sipping wassail, we were preparing the bees for the winter. Once the temperatures dipped into the negatives it became difficult to remember early December's warmer days with temperatures in the 60s, but there they were, inviting our bees to take a few last flights. Never wavering, Adam made the rounds and filled up the nectar jars for one last sugar boost before settling in for the long winter. Also, following the honey harvest in November, all of our 40 hives were treated for mites, just in case, which is a once weekly treatment (see Battling the Mighty Mite) that lasts three weeks (twice a year) to cover the entire life cycle of a potential debilitating mite. We are nothing if not thorough.

In mid December, we covered all of the beehives to protect them for the winter. You may notice two kinds of covers. A 360 degree Bee Cozy of soft insulation covered in heavy duty plastic to keep the weather out (for those of you who responded to the emails) and also four sides of styrofoam taped around the hives (for those who did not). The Cozy slides over the hive boxes leaving no cracks at the seams. These seemed particularly necessary for the BeeSA, as the site can be windy in the winter and the styrofoam has been known to come loose up there. We will see how they do.  

After the temperatures dropped below 55 degrees, a smaller group of bees, bees who were born in August and genetically engineered to winter over and initiate next Spring's bee machine, clustered together for warmth. They move as a cluster throughout the hive to access the various stores of honey and pollen. Before they were sealed with a reducer at their front door and covered, the Bee Team added a pollen cake (yum, yum) to supplement the honey they prepared for the winter. Bees fuel their heat with honey and have been known to eat northward of 30 pounds of honey over the winter. Gasp!

As the winter progresses and the snow builds up, do not remove any snow from your hives. The snow acts as an insulator. Between the snow, the bee cozy and the honey-eating cluster, the inside of the beehive can reach up to 95 degrees. My guess is that's pretty difficult when it's negative 7 degrees, but our bees are pretty industrious. Here's wishing them luck, endurance and plenty of movies to watch (The Bee Movie?).

Stay cozy bees, xoxo farmgirl

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