Bee Thinking About – For November, 2012

Here are some things, geographically and weather-dependent, to consider for your apiary about now. Remember, this is in geographical generalities. For area specifics, we suggest you talk with other local beekeepers and / or check with your bee club for common practices this time of year. We’ve covered these topics extensively in the last three years, so more ideas, insights and examples may be found in back issues from the fall of each year. All back issues may be found at

Things to check inside the hive, weather permitting!

Honey placement: The books tell us the best place for honey is above and to the sides of the brood nest. Your bees however may not have read the books. You may need to redistribute their honey a bit.
Enough food? How much is needed varies widely by geographic area, and the beekeeper you ask. See last month’s issue for some weight estimates by geographical area, and weighing methods.

If you don’t have enough stores? Consider supplemental feeding and pollen patties, which is only helpful before the cold sets in and the bees go into cluster.

Not sure? A good insurance policy is an emergency sugar ceiling. See the Mountain Camp Method, below:

Mountain Camp Method

  1. Place a 2" spacer rim atop the frames.

  2. Place 2 sheets of black and white newspaper directly atop the frames. This will cover roughly 2/3 of the surface area, leaving 1/3 of the frames visible. Be sure to keep the newspaper within the spacer rim. If it extends to the outside, it may wick moisture into the hive.

  3. Mist the newspaper with a spray bottle of water.

  4. Dump about a third of two pounds of white sugar on the newspaper; mist until it begins to clump.

  5. Repeat until all of the sugar has been applied.

  6. Place the inner cover atop the rim spacer, and then the top cover. The reason for the light mist is to get the sugar to clump a bit so the bees don’t carry it out as foreign material.

Things to do outside of the hive for winter preparation.

North: depending upon how far north you are, these probably should’ve been addressed in October.

South: Use as appropriate, depending upon how far south you are.

Install mouse guards, entrance reducers and solid bottom boards—if you use them. Not sure what to do? Talk to others in your area, and experiment if you have multiple hives of seemingly comparable strength. For example, some of our Canadian readers report NOT using solid bottom boards for purposes of ventilation, as long as they have windbreaks around their hives. Yet, central Illinois readers report using solid bottom boards.

Wrapping hives—for the north, windbreaks against strong prevailing winds are important. Many northern readers wrap their hives with roofing paper; many do not. If you get strong winds, consider a brick or two atop the hive…any time of year.
Ventilation methods—see article in this issue. Ventilation is essential. Bees can generally survive being cold, but can’t handle being wet and cold.

Redistributing of honey stores (if needed)—frames of honey should be touching the brood nest on either side, and above it. Less-than-complete frames of honey in the hive? Consider moving those to the outsides. Chances are the bees won’t get to them; bees tend to eat what’s above them over time. The heat they generate above the cluster warms the honey for their consumption.
Medications—if you use them.

Removing honey / supers: Unless you’re in the middle of a substantial nectar flow, it’s probably time (or past time) to remove. A reader asked if she can leave her full honey super atop the hive in New York. No surprise here—some beekeepers say yes, it is good insurance for them in case they eat up that far. Some beekeepers say no, if they’ve got plenty of other honey that’s just more space for them to heat. Good luck!
Reduce space: South—reduce the hive to ensure the bees can patrol everything to keep critters in check. North—hopefully this is already done.

We’re sure we’ve forgotten something! As always, your comments and contributions welcome, email

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