Winter is coming.
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So it's Fall and things are slowing down for bees and thus things slow down a bit for Bee Syndicate. Posts get a bit less frequent but like honey bees we are not going to sleep and we are not hibernating for the winter. you will just see us a bit less until things pick up in the spring. I will continue to post a few time over the winter but the blog will start flowing more when the nectar starts coming in and we acquire our new bees. (As it turns out I may have to get creative about bee acquisition but that's another post.)
What’s that you say? Honey bees don't hibernate? Thats right. when the air temperature dips into the 50s they usually kick out the drone bees in order to conserve resources and then the bees cluster together in the hive. That is to say they all move close together around the queen and beat their wings to produce heat and keep the temperature in the hive around 90 degrees Fahrenheit. All that buzzing takes a lot of energy so it's a good thing that lots of carbohydrates are available for the girls to keep themselves going all winter long. Honey is basically pure carbs No South Beach for these girls. The bees burn the carbs to keep warm. So it's very important that the bees have been able to store enough honey to get through the winter and equally important that a beekeeper does not over harvest honey before the nectar flow tapers off in the fall.
When the colony is clustered brood rearing also slows or stops as the queen stops laying eggs so it's a good thing that winter bees live longer than summer bees because someone has to make all that heat in the hive. winter bees don't fourage or leave the hive except when the temperature warms up a bit ( above 56ish F ) to make some cleansing flights. Bees don't go to the bathroom in the hive so for several weeks over the winter they hold it. It's to cold for the bees to leave the hive and survive even for a short time so they just don't go. So on a warm day you are likely to see a steady stream of bees making a trip outside to relieve themselves. During these warm day flight times it is not uncommon to see a lot of dead bees on the ground near the hive and by a lot i mean it can be hundreds. This is actually normal as it is with it being to cold to go to the bathroom it's to cold to remove the corpses of dead bees so the bodies just pile up on the floor. As soon as it's warm enough the living bees bring out the dead.
Its worth noting quickly that physiologically winter bees are different than summer bees. they have fatter bodies and will live for a few months rather than the few weeks of the summer bee
In the winter it is still important to make hive inspections. Many things may happen in the winter that require a beekeepers intervention. things like your bees running out of food. If the bees honey stores start to run low you may need to add additional frames of capped honey if you happen to have them from a previous harvest, or you may swap frames of honey with another hive that had a stronger year and managed to store more honey than a weaker colony. Be careful not to rob Peter to pay Paul as it were. Don't take to much from the donor hive that they run into problems later in the winter.you may wind up with two hives in trouble. If you are desperate you might need to feed your winter bees with sugar cakes it's not ideal but it can save your bees if they are running low of food.
another thing that may happen is that some other animal might turn to the bee’s honey to get through the winter this can spell disaster for a hive so it's important to take necessary precautions in your winter preparation to try and prevent this type of thing if you need to where your bees are.
some smaller animals like rodents may try to take up residence in the warm hive and you may need to remove these squatters as they are not good for your hive.