Bee Thinking About – For December, 2012

Along with other holiday preparations, here are some geographic and weather-dependent considerations for what to do in your apiary this month. 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, more ideas, insights and examples may be found in back issues, at

Both northern and southern climes: Wrapping hives, mouse guards, entrance reducers, solid bottom boards, hive ventilation, reducing space—this all should have been done by now. See November’s issue for more information. Northern beekeepers, there isn’t much we can do except monitor hives to be sure branches haven’t fallen on them, that covers are in place, and that snow is cleared from ventilation holes.

South: Weather permitting…

Honey placement: We turned to beekeeper and prolific writer Dennis Brown for this advice:

  • Most of us in the South are thinking about preparing our bees for winter and that includes making sure that the bees have enough food stores to carry them until spring. Feeding sugar water is the most common way to beef-up those food stores however, we all know that feeding honey to our bees is a much healthier solution.

  • The most common practice for beekeepers fortunate enough to have extra filled honey supers is to place those honey supers on top of the hive for the bees to eat throughout the winter months. As the temperature begins to drop, the bees will move into the upper box to form their winter cluster. If you have a honey super as the top box, the bees will move into it for the winter.

  • Now let’s think about it. We would really like to keep our honey supers as honey supers and not have any brood in them. During the winter months the queen will lay brood in the top box where she is located and you will not have that honey super available in the spring time ready for the honey flow.

  • The solution is really simple. Instead of placing the honey super on top for the bees to winter on, place the honey super on the bottom. Bees will always move their honey stores up as winter time approaches so that it will be available to them while they are in their winter cluster. The lower box is usually empty by the time February arrives (in the south) and can be removed at that time and stored until the honey flow begins or remove the empty box when you perform your first inspection of the year.

  • The key is to add this super at least six to eight weeks before the cold hits. That will allow the bees enough time to move the honey from the bottom to the top box.

  • As you can see, your honey super offered your bees the food supply they needed and it will be available for the spring honey flow without having been used for brood activity.

Enough food? If you don’t have enough stores consider supplemental feeding and pollen patties, only helpful though 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 article in last month’s issue.

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


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