Honeybees in the Winter

Arthropods are invertebrate animals of the phylum arthropoda. Some arthropods include termites, crabs, ticks, mites, and honeybees. Some species die out before the winter, some burrow into soil, and some migrate to warmer climates. Honeybees, however, stay together all winter, working to protect the queen.

The first step to prepare for winter is collecting winter stores. A large colony of bees needs around 70 pounds of honey to survive the winter. That's about 1 medium super's supply of honey. The bees use this honey to generate heat and to feed the larva. Most beekeepers must help the colony by feeding sugar water, pollen patties, or bee candy. Sugar water is a mixture of 2 to 1, sugar to water. It is fed through the front of the hive in a slow drip system, or from the top of the hive. Pollen patties are usually fed along with sugar water, and provides the bees with protein. Bee candy is hardened sugar that the bees chew on. It is placed on a "candy board", and the bees slowly eat it. We will be feeding sugar water to our bees this winter, because it is a cheap and reliable option.

Towards the end of fall, the worker bees kick the drones out of the hive. Unable to protect the hive, lay eggs, or gather resources, the drones are just more mouths to feed. The workers will fight with the drones outside of the hive, and then not allow them to return into the hive. In the spring, the queen will lay new drones, which will then be kicked out for the winter.

When the temperature is below 55 degrees, honeybees can not fly. They stop working and form a cluster, a tightly packed bunch of bees that generate energy to stay warm. The cluster is centered around the queen, because the bees main job is to keep the queen from freezing. The bees on the outside of the cluster might freeze and fall of the cluster, but the workers rotate who is towards the center of the cluster. The cluster stays warm by quickly vibrating back and forth, and by eating and metabolizing honey. To keep the brood warm, some bees go into open honeycomb cells and produce energy that heats the brood.

Over the winter, a number of pests can kill a hive. If left untreated, varroa mites can destroy or severely weaken a hive. Luckily, there are natural treatments that can be used in the fall. Wax moths can also weaken a hive over the winter. The eat the winter stores and honeycomb, and eventually destroy the hive. Robbers can steal all of the winter stores from a hive. Robbers are bees from other hives, or wasps that sneak into the hive and take the honey. They usually target weak or semi-weak hives. Robbers can be prevented by closing part of the entrance, so the bees have less entrance space to defend. Hives are heated and sheltered during the winter, so sometimes mice sneak in. The bees will take care of the mice themselves by reducing the oxygen in the air and killing the mouse, and then completely covering it with propolis. This can be prevented by putting a mouse guard in the entrance. It is an entrance reducer with small hole so the mice can't get through but the bees can.

Proper ventilation in the hive is very important. When the colony is clustering, they produce heat that rises to the top of the hive. It condenses, and then drips back onto the cluster. If there is good ventilation, the warm air will escape and keep the bees dry.

The key to a hive surviving the winter is to have a large colony in the fall. Large colonies require more honey, but they also can fight pests off and can keep a larger area of the hive warm. Most first year hives do not survive.

1st image. Hive in snow;

2nd image: Cluster of bees in hive;

#winter #frontentrancefeeder


Arlington, Virginia

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