Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lesson 90: Winter Tips

Hello friends, we’re David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee dnsFarms in central Illinois. Our bees are tucked away for winter, nothing more can be done except to replace candy boards as needed.
In less than 100 days, in Illinois the bee season begins and bees will be working early spring plants gearing up for another beekeeping season.
Over the next few days we’ll be welcoming in another year. I’m excited. Good things are going to get better for all of us.
christmasSheri and I have 3 girls and 3 boys, and over the Christmas Holiday I enjoyed taking my three daughters out to eat and it was so fun just listening to them talk and share their life experiences.

And let me encourage you to follow along my wife’s blog. She enjoys telling about what’s going on around the honey bee farm and at home. We have lots of fun, and Sheri recently shared about some exciting things coming up for 2011. Sheri’s Sweet Life
In today’s lesson I want to share about what bees do in the winter and what you can do to add to your bees’ survival. And I’ll be sharing a series of lessons on top bar hives (TBH) starting in Lesson 91, our lesson after this one.
LESSSON 90: What Bees Do In The Winter
Depending on how cold it gets where you live, bees form a tight cluster to survive the winter. Here in Illinois it gets really cold. And this time of the year, it’s too cold to inspect our colonies. We can open them just for a minute to replace candy boards but for the most part the bees are on their own until late February.
Cold does not kill a healthy, populous colony. Usually beekeepers lose colonies during the winter from varroa mites, tracheal mites, nosema, pesticide build up in stored pollen or starvation.
So many beekeepers ask me what they can do to help their bees survive the winter. I’ve worked up an easy to remember acronym WINTERS:
Wipe out pest & diseases
Initiate protection against extreme climate conditions
New queen
Top Ventilation
Excluders and empty combs off
Restrict Opening to keep out mice
Sufficient Pollen & Honey
Winter Cluster DrawingHow does the typical hive overwinter?  Bees make no effort to heat the inside of their hive like we heat our homes. We like every room to be warm. Bees, however, only produce heat from within the cluster. The cluster consumes honey and shiver to produce heat.
Bees begin to cluster when the outside temperature reaches 57 (f). Temperature of the outer surface of the winter cluster is just over 40 (f).
Within the center of the winter cluster the temperature is around 93 (f).
Never inspect a frame outside the hive until the temperature reaches 65 (f).
Colonies in the Midwest and north need around 4 frames of pollen for the winter, along with 60 pounds of honey.
Typically in northern climates the queen will stop laying in November through December but will start laying again shortly after winter solstice (December 21 or 22).
Winter bees have larger hypopharyngeal glands and more fat body reserves.
Bees can die in the winter if they become too filled with waste and cannot fly out and defecate.
Bees keep their humidity level at 40-50% in the summer hive and in the winter cluster.
The diameter of the winter cluster is around 14 inches at 57 (f) degrees, but 10 inches at -14 (f)
An outside temperature of 45 (f) degrees is most optimal for efficient use of stored resources.
A winter cluster is made up of an outside shell of bees around 3 inches thick that is very compressed. The bees heads are facing inward.
Within the center of the winter cluster, bees are less compressed and move around caring for brood.
Bees vibrate their flight muscles to generate heat for the winter cluster.
Normally a colony forms a winter cluster below their stored honey and gradually move up near the available honey as winter progresses.
Smaller winter clusters consume more resources per bee than larger clusters.
Bees can identify temperature differences as small as 0.45 (f).
Very small clusters cannot survive temperatures 45 (f) and below.
The winter cluster prefers dark comb and usually avoids new comb.
Varroa mites, small hive beetles and trachea mites also survive within the warmth of the winter cluster.

Here’s some winter tips:
Never remove frames for inspection unless the temperature is at least 65 degrees.
Aster is not a good overwintering honey because it crystalizes fast and the bees rarely ripen it prior to winter. Crystallized honey in the winter can give the bees dysentery because it produces liquid as it separates and the bees are unable to take the cleansing flights they need.
Never give bees molasses, brown sugar or corn syrup as these contain complex carbohydrates and other compounds which the bees are unable to digest.
Bees prefer to overwinter on foundation that has been used in brood rearing and will rarely move onto new comb.
Here in the Midwest colonies need between 60-80 pounds of stored honey. Here are the weights of frames filled with honey:
DEEP FRAME         6 lbs
MEDIUM FRAME     3 lbs

Colonies need 4 frames of pollen for winter.

If your bees need emergency feed, consider our Winter-Bee-Kind.

In The summer of 2011 we introduced our Winter-Bee-Kind after several years of studying overwintering hives. We could barely keep up with production they were in such demand. We still make them right here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms but we've expanded our production methods to keep up with demand. So many beekeepers told us that these were the only thing that got their hives through the winter. This year, it's time for the 2014 production year. We even mix the sugar and pollen and right here and pour the candy into the Winter-Bee-Kinds. WHAT IS A WINTER-BEE-KIND? It is a one piece candy board that provides food, ventilation, upper insulation and an upper exit/entrance to help bees remain healthier during the winter. Someone said it insulates, ventilates and feed-i-lates. With the built in upper vent, you don't have to worry about snow covering up your hive's lower entrance. The bees can still go in and out through the top vent spacing. We avoid shipping Winter-Bee-Kinds in hot weather and start shipping each September-March. You can place our Winter-Bee-Kinds on your hive anytime, even in the winter. Because it goes on top of the hive in place of the inner cover, and you are NOT removing any frames, it can be placed on the hive in cold weather. Just do it fast. Open the top, remove the inner cover and place the candy side down and the vent slot toward the front of the hive and you're done. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kinds Some form of a candy board has been around for a long time. Beekeepers of long ago placed candy in their hives to provide enough food for their bees to survive the long months of winter. There are various mixtures and receipts for candy boards. Some are made with soft candy and some with hard candy. The end result is still the same. The bees will consume the sugar as they need it. We've always been concerned about the amount of condensation that can develop in the hive during the winter. The bees produce heat within their hive and as the temperature is very cold outside the hive, condensation will develop on the warm side, just above the bees on the inner cover or top cover. This condensation can accumulate and drop down onto the winter cluster of bees below. Bees can stay warm in the winter but they must remain dry. If this cold water drips down onto the bees, it can reduce their ability to keep their cluster warm. The insulation on our Winter-Bee-Kind helps reduce the excessive moisture and even puts some of that moisture to work, as it accumulates on the candy and makes it easy for the bees to consume the sugar. Thus, a Winter-Bee-Kind can help lessen two winter stresses, the lack of food and excessive moisture. We make our Winter-Bee-Kinds with sugar and a healthy amount of pollen powder. Many beekeepers make the mistake of only feeding their bees sugar in the winter, but the bees also need protein which they obtain from pollen. Our Winter-Bee-Kinds come with pollen mixed in with the sugar.. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kind today. We recommend that you place candy boards on your hive any time between Oct-March.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q: Which way does the candy face in the hive?
A: The candy faces down just above the winter cluster. Normally, this means that the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the brood box that contains the cluster. For example, if you overwinter your bees in a single deep hive body, the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on this deep hive body with the candy facing down toward the cluster. If you are using two deep hive bodies to overwinter, then the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the top deep hive body. It is best to disregard the use of an inner cover, and simply place your top cover over the Winter-Bee-Kind.

Q: What about winter moisture?
A: Moisture can develop in the winter from condensation, a contrast of the heat the bees produce in the hive and the extreme cold temperature outside the hive. Condensation accumulates on the warm side, which means moistures collects on the inner cover or top cover above the hive. This can drip down on the bees and chill them during the winter. A Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of an inner cover and any moisture that develops from condensation aids the bees in consuming the candy.

Q: How long will a Winter-Bee-Kind last on a hive?
A: On average about 3 weeks. However, a colony that has ample stored honey may not consume the candy board as fast or not at all until they need it. A colony close to starvation may consume a Winter-Bee-Kind within a week or two.

Q: Since Winter-Bee-Kinds are placed or replaced on the hive in the winter, can I open the hive up on a cold day?
A: It is best to place the candy boards on a hive when the temperature is above freezing and try to place the candy board on and have the hive sealed back up within 1-2 minutes. It should not take over 1 minute. Do not remove any frames in cold temperatures, only place your Winter-Bee-Kind on and off quickly. If you can choose the warmest day during the winter, that would be best. Try to avoid very cold, windy or rainy days.

Q: How do I refill a candy board?
A: It is best to send back your candy board and we will refill it for $7 plus shipping. If you are a good candy maker, you can do it yourself.

Q: How do I get one with a pollen?
A: Our Winter-Bee-Kinds contain pollen as well.

Q: Can I make my own?
A: You can, but you must experiment, because you do not want the candy to be too hard or too runny. The exact mix depends on your altitude, heat source and other conditions so it will be different from one location to another.

Q: Why was some liquid sugar dripping out of my Winter-Bee-Kind when I received it?
A: It is the nature of candy boards to be a bit on the dripping side even though the top may be hard. Do not be concerned if you see liquid sugar dripping out of your boards when you receive it. It usually means it was left on end during shipment for a prolong period of time. The bees will clean everything up and enjoy this soft liquid.

Q: How much sugar is in one Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Approximately 5 pounds

Q: When do I put a Winter-Bee-Kind on my hive?
A: Any time! Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb are good months to place on the boards.

Q How often should I check my Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Every three weeks, take a peek.

Q: Do you make Winter-Bee-Kind for 5 frame nucs or 8 frame hives?
A: Yes, check out our website to order, but carefully read the description to make sure you are ordering the correct size and type.

Q: Can the candy break loose from the board on the hive?
A: It rarely happens, but during extreme winter weather, the candy and separate from the board while on the hive. This is not a problem. The bees will continue to consume the sugar.

Q: When I place it on the hive, do I use my inner cover. Just how does it go on?
A: Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of your inner cover. Simply place the Winter-Bee-Kind on the top of your upper hive body or super with the candy facing down, then place your top cover on top of the Winter-Bee-Kind. Be sure to use a rock or brick to make sure the wind does not blow your top cover off. There is overwhelming enthusiasm about our Winter-Bee-Kinds. Click here to order now.
In our next lesson, we will be rolling out a lesson on Top Bar Hives and we’ll be rolling out our own design for the Top Bar Hives that we are not producing in addition to our regular traditional Langstroth hives.
Here’s our contact info:
14556 N 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com
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Until next time, BEE-Have Yourself!

Happy New Year,
David & Sheri Burns