Thursday, December 12, 2013

Winter Bees: 2013-12-12

Winter for a Michigan beekeeper can be the most stressful time of year.  Specifically because there usually isn't much you can do once you've tucked them in for the cold season.  All the work for Winter prep is hopefully done before the snow flies!

Most people that I talk to tend to think that bees hibernate for the Winter.  Not true, they cluster together into a ball of bees and use the honey they have stored in the hive as their food/energy source to generate heat.  They start in the bottom box and eat their way up into the top box by the end of Winter.  So, if you open the hive on a warm day in January and the bees are at the top of the hive already, you are in trouble.  I wanted to do one final inspection in the Fall to determine the honey stores in the hive but I never got around to it.  As an emergency measure, you can put sugar in the hive so they can have something to eat.  Last year, I used the "mountain camp" method to put sugar into the hive.  Basically I removed some frames, put down some newspaper and dumped sugar on it.  It worked well but I came across plans for a candy board and it seemed like a really good way of putting the sugar over the cluster.  With a small hole drilled into the side it also provides additional ventilation to the hive as well as an upper entrance in case the bottom gets snowed in.  It was easy to make the box and some 1/2" hardware cloth stapled to the bottom and it was built!

Another nice thing is this sugar required no cooking.  I put 12 pounds of sugar, 3 cups of water and a tablespoon of vinegar into my beer brewing kettle and stirred it up.  This makes a paste like consistency that you spread into the candy board.

You place a block of wood in front of the ventilation hole/upper entrance so the sugar doesn't plug it up.   After spreading the sugar out, I let it dry for about a week before placing it on the hive.

Once the candy board was in place I put mouse guards on the front entrance, some wind breaks up to help cut down the North and West winds and placed some pieces of styrofoam insulation over the outer cover.

Now for the hardest part of all..............waiting until Spring!

Thanks for reading


  1. Mark,

    Thanks for your blog. I enjoy reading about your experiences while my bees are resting and now I can use your ideas, as well as others during the summer down here. I hope you Christmas is good and I look forward to your off season posts and for your spring.


    1. Thanks Tim. I'm glad people can learn what not to do by observing my screwups!! heheheh =)

      I'm looking forward to Spring too and it isn't even Winter yet!