Winter is the easiest time of year for beekeepers because once you get your bees tucked in for the winter there really isn’t much you can do, but this also makes it a scary time of year. Of course we still check on them but you can’t open up a hive until it’s over 10 degrees so no hive inspections. We use a plastic tube as a kind of stethoscope to listen to them and see if they sound strong instead of an inspection. But before this we get them ready for winter.
In the fall once the honey is off we treat the bees. We use Apivar strips to treat for varroa mites, and a powdered oxy (oxytetracycline) for foul brood. Usually we do both in the fall and spring. This year will be the first time we didn’t treat with oxy before winter, so we’ll see how that goes. The treatments need to be done after the supers are removed and before you get the bees ready for winter. When we take the strips off its a sign we need to get ready for winter.
We do three things to get the bees ready. First we put insulation in the inner cover. I want to experiment with using wood shavings instead of insulation next year. We then wrap the hives in tar paper. I know some people use the bee cozys you can order from bee supply stores but I’ve never tried one. You don’t want your bees too bundled up or moisture won’t be able to get out and your hive could get moldy.
Finally we put an entrance reducer on the hives. The reducers help prevent robbing, they prevent mice from getting in and they also keep them a bit warmer by letting less air in. We are using both wooden and metal entrance reducers and I think I like the wooden ones better but I haven’t decided. I worry the metal ones don’t provide a big enough space for the bees to clean out dead bees. You can make the wooden ones yourself or buy either kind at a bee supply store. You could also just block the hive door with whatever you have on hand. This isn’t the best option because the real reducers are secured to the hive.
And that’s it. Now you just need to cross your fingers and hope everybody makes it through the winter.