Beekeeper’s Calendar – October

Monthly Beekeeping Guide

October & the bees:

Bees have very little reason to fly in the cooler weather typical to this time of year. Flying is reduced to a minimum, and the queen will probably be laying very few eggs. The bees are now shifting into winter mode.

October & the beekeeper:

The beekeeper should now be preparing hives for winter. A windbreak should be considered. Entrance cleats/reducers and mouse prevention should be placed in the front opening to restrict mice from entering the hive. A word about bees and winter – a large hive will not die from cold weather/temperatures. They stay warm by clustering in the hive. They keep each other warm. The temperature in the hive is warmest within the cluster. They do not warm the entire inside of their hive, only near the cluster. They can survive extreme cold weather. However, moisture can develop within the hive as bees do give off moisture like we do. If this moisture gathers above them, it can drip onto the cluster. This is what can kill bees during the winter. They are much like us. We can be cold and get by. Nevertheless, we cannot stay alive long if we become wet and cold. Bees can get wet in the summer and it is not a problem. You must prevent your hive from becoing cold and wet in winter. Here are some options that will help. Screen bottom boards, fully opened (no covering on the bottom) should be used. Do not restrict or cover bottom boards for winter. Also, do not place any gaps near the top cover. The open screen bottom board allows enough ventilation within the hive to alleviate moisture build up. Wrapping hives for winter is not necessary, although many do. It can help somewhat, depending on your landscape and on weather conditions. Mainly, something is needed to break the flow of wind hitting the hive. Black roofing paper works well for this, if you choose to do so. Keep in mind that by wrapping your hive, you might be increasing the chance for condensation to collect within the hive. If you do, you should provide an upper ventilation opening (3/4″ bore hole or Imirie shim). Winter winds can be strong, so placing heavy concrete blocks on your hives is also advisable.

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