Winter Tips for your Bees!
Winter is coming!...maybe. You never quite know in Texas! But, over the next month, we should begin to see some cooling across the state! Let's discuss a few common winter prep practices when it comes to the exteriors of our hives.
1. Screened Bottom Boards A common question is what to do with screened bottom boards during the winter? It doesn't seem smart to leave a gaping hole under our hive for cold (ok, cool) wind to blow into our hive, right? We recommend sliding the insert that came with the SBB to cover it in mid- October. Alternatively, you can leave the bottom board uncovered, and block up the sides to prevent wind from blowing under the SBB. This works great, and allows mites to continue falling through all winter long. Bees don't actually keep all the space inside the hive warm, only their cluster within the hive.
2. Entrance Reducers Bees do a decent job of keeping their hive warm. An entrance reducer can help, but a strong hive will propolize the entrance to the size they want. An entrance reducer can help keep mice out of the hive, and keep some of the cold air out. If you use an optional entrance reducer, use the largest opening and face the opening up. If dead bees accumulate on the bottom board, they won't block the entrance. Don't forget to pull it off in late
3. Winter Wraps Wrapping hives in insulating material for the winter is not recommended or necessary in the south. We don't get that cold, and in reality, hive wraps don't actually help much. As mentioned before, the bees only keep their cluster warm. A few inches from their cluster inside the hive, it may be 30 degrees. Plus, wrapping the hive too tightly can prevent a hive from "breathing" and allowing moisture to escape. In the south, wrapping hives can overheat the hive on a sudden warm day. Even though it makes us as beekeeper's feel better, it doesn't help the bees, and can even harm them.
4. Wind Blocks Another common topic is providing a wind block for your hives. While not critical, it doesn't hurt! A hive fully exposed to a routine cold north wind will have to work a bit harder to keep their hive warm. While strong hives should have no problem with this, weaker hives can struggle. Square hay bales, privacy fences, or a tree line are all great wind blocks. Don't forget to secure your lids down with a rock or brick as well! Your bees can get chilled quickly if their lid blows off.