Are you ready for winter?

The change of season is very apparent now that we have entered October. The temperature has dropped, the leaves are turning, and winter will soon be here.

Getting your bees ready for winter - simon the beekeeper

These changes bring about different needs for your bees. The most common things that can cause the loss of colonies throughout winter are queenless colonies, varroa, starvation, pests and damp. The good thing is, these are within your control. Therefore, it’s time to prepare for the winter weather and make sure your bees are as safe as they can be in order to survive.

There are three main things that need to be addressed when preparing your hives for winter:

1. Treatment

Treating your hives for varroa is a must.

Varroa mite on bee cell - simon the beekeeper

There are different VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) approved treatments available and are chosen according to the beekeepers individual preferences. However, with the weather being colder, there are two treatments of choice:

You can watch videos and read more about varroa mites in our blog 'Varroa mites and how to treat them'.

Please remember, you must keep a record of any medicines that have been administered to your bees for a minimum period of 5 years to comply with the legal requirements for food-producing animals.

2. Feeding

Now the weather is colder, the bees will be taking any food given to them, down to store and using it to get through the winter.

If you have used the ‘hefting’ method and your hives feel light, your bees will need the feed topped up.

‘A standard full size British National colony needs between 20-25 kg of stores to successfully get through winter. Sugar syrup should be made with 1kg of sugar to 650ml of warm water or a commercially ready-made bee syrup can be given’. (BeeBase)

There are various feeders and feed available on our website.

If you’re not sure what feeder to choose, watch Simon explain them all here. 

3. Protection

Pests

Keeping your bees healthy and fed is vitally important, but pests pose more potential hazards and can come in many forms: wasps, mice, woodpeckers to name but a few.

Woodpeckers can severely damage wooden hives and, if they get that far, will eat all the bees. Polystyrene hives are easy prey for them too as they have no issues penetrating the hive walls or roof and can destroy them within minutes.

A good tip to help guard against woodpeckers is to use some chicken wire – but it does need to be far enough away from the hive walls so they can’t use it to perch on while pecking away at the hive.

Now is also the time to be fitting mouse guards onto the entrance of your hives to ensure they can’t build cosy nests inside. Bear in mind that rodents have super sharp teeth, so metal mouse guards are usually better.

Insulation

Polystyrene hives are already quite well insulated and offer a good temperature for your bees to withstand the colder weather. However, wooden hives need a little more help.

One thing that can be used to help provide some extra warmth is using a couple of squares of old carpet over the crown board, or old woolly jumpers etc. It’s also really important to make sure that your hives are on a stand and off the ground. There are also hive wraps that you can buy from us to help to protect the wooden hives against damp.

Don't forget to secure your hives with ratchet straps, so there's no chance of bad and windy weather toppling them over. 

One more thing...Be sure to update your records with BeeBase, especially where hives have been combined.

If you’ve covered all of the above, you can relax and enjoy a little bit of down time.

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