Winter Coming to an End.
As winter comes to an end, I want to share thoughts about overwintering beehives. The causes of winter losses are lack of honey (starvation) and a small population of bees.
What Have I Learnt?
We have had higher than usual winter losses. I started my preparation for overwintering hives too late in our apiary and went into winter with inadequate colonies.
1) Honey Stores.
In a two-box hive, the honey super should have 20 kgs of honey. The queen excluder needs to be removed to allow the winter cluster to move up into the top box as honey is consumed. If you need to add more honey stores in autumn, start feeding early to increase the weight of honey/sugar syrup stored.
2) Colony Strength.
A colony population of adequate strength for winter is essential. What is adequate strength? A report from the US recommends that at the end of summer, a full-depth brood box full of bees - wall to wall and top to bottom is needed. Smaller colonies should be merged, and only first-class colonies should be overwintered. Weak colonies seldom recover going into autumn and winter. The aim of the beekeeper is not to keep every colony alive, but to keep strong healthy hives.
The age of bees going into winter is important. Late summer and autumn brood rearing should be encouraged. This is accomplished by having a young queen and plenty of pollen and honey. Any queen in late summer showing poor brood quality should be replaced. The work you do in late summer and autumn with your bees will repay you with a great start to spring.
Yes, I have learnt something this year. So, I will start planning my overwintering strategy in February. What have you learnt about overwintering?
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