Bees are one of the most fascinating creatures on the planet, and they play a critical role in our ecosystem. For those who keep bees, understanding how to care for them during cold weather is essential for the health and survival of the hive. Here are eight vital tips for beekeepers to know during cold weather.
1- Keep an Eye on the Temperature
During winter, bees cluster together to keep warm and will only fly when the temperature is above 55 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature outside is too cold for them to fly, they won’t be able to collect nectar and pollen, which they need to survive. Because of this, it’s essential to monitor the temperature inside and outside the hive.
2- Look for Signs of Frostbite
Bees are also susceptible to frostbite, so looking for signs of ice in the hive is essential. Frostbite occurs when the bees’ body temperature drops below freezing and ice forms on their bodies. Symptoms of frostbite include lethargy, weakness, and death.
To prevent frostbite, beekeepers should cover the hive with a blanket or tarp to insulate it. They can also place a heat source under the hive to keep it warm.
3- Make Sure the Hive is Well-Ventilated
Bees need fresh air to stay alive, so ensuring the hive is well-ventilated is important. If the hive is too airtight, the bees will suffocate. To ventilate the hive, beekeepers can open the entrance or add holes to the top of the hive.
4- Provide the Bees with Water
Water is essential for bees, and they will drink it even in cold weather. However, water can freeze so it’s essential to provide the bees with a water source that won’t freeze. You can use an electric bee waterer to keep the water warm and prevent it from freezing.
5- Check the Food Supply
Bees need a lot of food to survive, consuming up to 60 pounds of honey over the winter. To ensure the bees have enough food, beekeepers should check the hive periodically and add more honey if necessary. An easy way to do this is to place a frame of honey in the hive before winter starts.
6- Keep an Eye on the Queen
The Queen Bee is essential for the hive, and beekeepers should ensure she is healthy and safe during the winter. One way to do this is to check the hive periodically to see if she is laying eggs. If she isn’t, it may be necessary to introduce a new queen.
7- Avoid Pesticides
Pesticides can be harmful to bees, so it’s important to avoid using them near the hive. If you must use pesticides, you should first consult with a bee expert to determine which ones are safe.
8- Be Prepared for Emergencies
Even with the best care, bees can die in winter. Beekeepers should be prepared for this by having a plan in case the hive dies. One option is to have a backup hive ready to go so that you can quickly transfer the bees to it. Another option is to have a supply of bee larvae so that you can start a new hive if necessary.
By following these tips, beekeepers can help their hives survive the winter. Cold weather can be tough on bees, but they can make it through to spring with the right care.