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December Beekeeping Tips
1. Continue monitoring food stores. Pollen patty feeding can be discontinued as your hives remain clustered most days. However, during warmer days, bees will fly, searching for food sources. You may find bees burrowing into chicken feed, sawdust, etc. They are attempting to find a source of protein, and will gather any type of dust thinking it is a protein source. You can open feed protein powder in December and January to discourage that behavior. It is not completely necessary, but any feeding is helpful. Check out how to tell how much honey is stored in a hive here!
2. During quick hive inspections, you will most likely see the size of cluster diminish over time. The bees will be clustering more and more tightly as the weather gets colder. But, you will also see a slow loss in population as the fall workers die. This is normal. Hives often lose strength over winter, thus the larger and stronger the hive going into winter the better.
3. With the cold weather, you may notice your harvested honey beginning to crystallize. To re-liquefy, warm at 120 degrees for 24 hours. This can be done using a variety of methods, such as an old refrigerator or ice chest with light bulbs and a thermostat.
4. Any hive that has less than 4 frames covered front and back with bees should be combined with another hive using the newspaper method. Eliminate the queen in the weak hive, and remove the lid of the hive you are going to join with. Place a sheet of newspaper over the hive, and place the box containing the bees from the weaker hive directly on top of the newspaper. Over a period of days, the bees will chew through the newspaper, and merge into one hive. This slow method of joining helps prevent fighting between the two hives. Here is a video showing this process!
5. Add entrance reducers, remove queen excluders if you haven't already. Check out our article in the October edition outlining the details on each of these items, or our video on entrance reducers.
6. Keep wax moth crystals on your stored comb. Check out our video on how to store comb!
7. If your hive has been properly cared for and everything has gone right, you should have 8-16 frames of bees going into winter. A well fed hive, with virtually no mites, should easily survive the winter! Check out this video of a hive ready for winter!
8. If you have a screened bottom board, covering it is not necessary. However, prevent wind from blowing underneath the hive by blocking off each side of the bottom board.
9. Fortunately, things like insulation hives, providing an upper entrance to prevent condensation, candy boards, etc. are not necessary in Texas. Our winters are mild enough that none of those things are needed.
10. Don't forget to go ahead and use this down season to order & build equipment for next year!
11. Last, but certainly not least, if you want more hives next year, make sure to order nucs or hives, and queens NOW! The sooner you order your bees, the earlier the pick up date you will be able to choose! For now, we have not raised prices for 2021, so order soon!