Winterizing Bee Hives

Two weekends ago, I winterized my bee hives to prepare them for the coming winter weather.

What Do Honey Bees Do In Winter?

Bee Hives Covered By Snow Drift

There are two bee hives in this picture.

This is a frequent question. The fact is that the bees work all summer to gather nectar and convert it into honey. Honey bees prefer to eat nectar but they consume honey when no flowers are blooming.

The bees are able to maintain a temperature differential of 95 degrees Fahrenheit. The bees do this by forming a cluster inside the hive and flexing a muscle to generate heat.  That means if it is 0 degrees outside it will be 95 degrees in the center of the cluster. The bees will actually rotate from inside the cluster to the outside. Thus taking turns so that the outer bees do not freeze to death.

I have been asked often if I place my hives indoors for winter. If I did this I would have to provide an exit hole to the outside similar to how observation hives do. While this is possible, I don’t think it is practical.

My strategy for over wintering the hives is simple. To provide shelter from the wind, I have located my bee hives next to my barn. I also use an all season inner cover that I purchased from Honey Run Apiaries that plays an important role in winterizing.

All Season Inner Cover Benefits

  • A hive has been dug out of the snow.

    If the snow is deep enough, even a top entrance will need to be dug out.

    Elegantly provides ventilation in the summer. I know some bee keepers that prop open their hives with a stick.

  • Provides two inches of rigid foam insulation to keep bees warmer in the winter.
  • Provides ventilation via top entrance.
  • Provides an escape route in case of deep snow or dead bees blocking the lower entrance.

Preparing The All Season Inner Cover For Winter

Add screen to prevent bees from accessing the foam insulation.

All Season Inner Cover With Screen Installed

Place hardware cloth over this hole.

Add the insulation.

All Season Inner Cover With Two Inches Of Rigid Foam Insulation

Two inches of rigid foam insulation has been installed in the all season inner cover.

Install on hive above brood chamber and underneath outer cover.

All Season Inner Cover Installed On Hive

The hive is now ready for winter.

Ready For Winter

After the insulation has bee installed, the hive is now ready for winter. There is not much for the bee keeper to do during the winter months. I will check on the bees in February or March on a comparatively warm and sunny day.

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2 Responses to Winterizing Bee Hives

  1. Julia says:

    I just purchased all season covers for my hives and I’m confused as to how it serves as a ventilator and top entrance in winter if the opening is covered with wire mesh and the insulation is a tight fit. The holes around the sides of the cover are also covered in wire mesh– so how are they getting out to conduct potty breaks, etc.? What am I missing or not understanding? Thanks so much!

    • RDG says:

      Julia,

      The pictures I have posted don’t show the top entrance but I will try to explain it.

      In the summer the inner cover has no additional mesh or Styrofoam insulation. The sides are always cover with hardware cloth to prevent other insects from getting in. During the summer the center hole is wide open to allow ventilation. It is not used as an entrance/exit.

      There is a small entrance at the front of the inner cover that is not shown.

      During the winter hardware cloth is placed over the center hole and then the insulation is installed. This keeps the bees from removing pieces of the insulation.

      The location of the top entrance should be obvious when you receive your all season inner cover. I hope this helps.

      -RDG