How to Winterize Bee Hives

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Make assessments and preparations on a warmer fall day.,
Ensure the hive has enough food for winter.,
Feed the colony if necessary.,
Look for healthy brood patterns.,
Merge a failing colony with another hive.

You should assess your colony’s health and start preparing it for winter during the fall. Choose a sunny day with temperatures in the 50 degree range Fahrenheit (10 to 15 degrees Celsius).Avoid opening your hive box during the winter. If you need to provide food or make any other adjustments, choose the warmest and sunniest day possible.
Bees need to cluster around the queen in order to survive colder temperatures. Every time you open the hive during the winter, bees will break away from their wintering cluster to seal up cracks using a resin called propolis. Breaking the cluster increases the risk of colony death.;
, When harvesting your hive’s honey, make sure the colony has enough food to sustain it through the winter. Generally, a colony will need 80 to 90 pounds (36 to 40 kilograms) of honey for the winter.Harvest surplus honey only from the hive’s topmost supers (boxes). Leave the lower honey supers for the hive’s winter consumption.
You can gently lift or tilt the hive box to estimate its weight when the weather starts to get cooler and periodically throughout the winter.

, If the hive box lifts easily and you believe its honey stores are low, feed the colony using sugar syrup or fondant. Place a honey frame or specially designed feeding panel saturated with the sugar or fondant at the top food super.You can make a sugar syrup by boiling two parts sugar with one part water and letting it cool. Fondant, which is a layered cake frosting available at your local bakery, is a costlier option, but its lower moisture content will help prevent condensation over the winter.

, When temperatures drop below about 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius), bees will begin to form their wintering cluster around the queen and her brood. Before it gets too cold, check the brood box to make sure the clustering pattern is healthy. Brood frames should contain a neat pattern of capped brood cells in the centers surrounded by cells with pollen and honey.The brood box should be the deepest super (the lowest box of the hive). It, and the other supers, should contain several removable frames so you can monitor brooding and honey production.
Spotty brood frame patterns, where brood cells and food cells are mixed up, indicate a failing or missing queen and other colony health problems.

, You can winterize a failing or queenless colony and hope for the best, but it’ll have a lower chance of surviving the winter. If you have another box or a beekeeper friend, merge the weaker colony with a stronger hive before winter arrives.First, consolidate the weaker hive into one super, or box, that contains the hive’s 10 strongest frames. The strongest frames will have the most brood and honey cells.
Remove the inner and outer covers of the stronger hive box and place a newspaper with several slits or small holes across its top bars.
Place the super or box with the weaker colony on top of the newspaper-covered hive box that contains the stronger colony. Give the colonies a week to chew through the newspaper so they merge gradually into one colony.
Consolidate the three-tiered hive box back into two by selecting the 20 strongest frames. Place the frames that contain mostly brood cells in the lower super and the ones that contain mostly honey in the top super. That way, you end up with one colony with a conventional bottom brooding tier and top food tier.  

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