wintering bees


Bee hives ideally should be sited to take advantage of the early morning sun and they should have a slight forward slope to shed condensation.  Hives left in shaded, damp conditions are conducive to infection such as Nosema Disease.  This infection leads in spring dwindle and often with heavy infection loss of hives is the end result.

Hives should also be protected from wind.  Reduction of hive entrances also helps keep those winter chills out.

Conditioning of Hives - Preparation in the Autumn

Ensure hives have ample supplies of pollen and honey.  Pollen is most important as bees need an abundance of pollen in spring, particularly if you get a flush of higher temperatures and then plunge into winter type conditions.  As we all know pollen is the protein food for bees.

A strong hive of bees needs as least five (5) frames of pollen and at least 15-20 kilos of honey.  If honey is lacking you can feed your bees in the autumn with
2 units of sugar and 1 unit of water.

Only give enough so that the bees can process and store what you give them in a couple of days.  If they are given more than they can utilize it is liable to ferment and fermented syrup KILLS BEES.

Take off excess woodware to pack bees down so that your box, or boxes, are full of bees.  This allows them to keep the normal temperature of the hive easily.  When you have been moving frames around preparing the hive, hives, for winter you should have been moving those heavy black drone ridden combs out and up so that finally they are moved out and into your solar wax extractor or drum of boiling water.

If you are working Spotted Gum you will not only get honey but also strong bees because the latter tree produces good pollen which they put into new brood.
If you migrate your bees there are still honey flows to be had and it is the same as your summer itinerary.  

You may like to requeen your hives at this time so you have young vigorous queens going into winter and more so coming into spring.  Remember all things being equal young queens are less prone to swarm.

If you are looking ahead to winter honey flows like White Box or Mugga Ironbark where the pollen is no good ensure your hives have plenty of stored pollen, so there are maximum numbers of young bees available to work them.

Working Mugga Ironbark of White Box you must have at least 8 – 10 frames of stored pollen as the pollen from Mugga Ironbark and White Box is no good for raising brood and the bees will dwindle away in winter so that come spring they will belittle better than 3 – 4 frame hives.

If you intend working winter honey flows you should have been conditioning the hives from early autumn, that is, making the queens lay by splitting the brood and putting in a couple of nicely drawn combs in between frames of brood.  Sothere are maximum numbers of young bees to work with.

If there is no nectar coming in feed the bees thin sugar syrup with 1 unit of sugar to 2 units of water.

Fortnightly you should do the splitting and interleaving two nicely drawn combs between two frames of brood and move the sealed frames up into the box above the brood box.  The reason being to ensure there are full, I mean really full, boxes of young bees so you do not suffer heavy bee mortality as would happen with old bees.  As it gets colder bees will not draw foundation so that is why you need drawn comb.

When taking off full combs of sealed honey do it in the middle of the day when it is at the warmest time of the day and replace four sealed frames with fourstickies or four dry drawn combs.  This is done very quickly so as the temperature loss in the hive is kept to a minimum.

Get the honey that has been taken off to the extractor as quickly as possible so it can be extracted while it is still warm.

If you do not migrate bees it is time to start packing them down in preparation for your winter itinerary.


Stuart Garske