Farm Focus: Winterizing Honey Bees
Kelly Knapp of Miss Bee Haven, who tends several hives atFrog Hollow, is busy this time of year! She is preparing the bees to weather the winter ahead. She begins by checking the health of each hive. She opens the boxes to evaluate the population of the hive and monitor the activity level of the bees. A healthy hive will have many bees that are flying in and out of the hive regularly to collect pollen. If she finds a hive that has a low population and/or inactive bees, she will either combine that hive with a stronger hive or provide the hive with a “candy stick” which is a board coated with sugar and an essential oil blend. This board will provide extra nutrients for the winter and help keep infection at bay.
For all hives, Kelly helps the bees create a warm and cozy winter abode. Each hive has at least 3 boxes. The bottom two boxes are the brood chambers where the eggs are laid. Every box above those chambers holds the honey. When checking the health of the hive, Kelly makes sure the brood boxes have enough honey and wax within the bottom two boxes. This is the honey that will sustain the bees throughout the winter. To survive the winter, the bees cluster together and vibrate to stay warm. If boxes above the brood chambers are left on the hive, the hive temperature drops and bees may also migrate up into the upper chambers reducing the heat of concentration of the hive.
Once the honey boxes have been removed, she puts a lid on the uppermost brood box. The bees then do their work of winterizing their hive. They produce propolis that they use to seal any cracks around the lid and any holes in their chamber. This propolis keeps cold air and winds out as well as protects the bees from ants interested in getting in.
The honey Kelly is collecting from the uppermost boxes is being strained and jarred right now! She won’t harvest any more honey until sometime during the summer months when the bees have created a stockpile from their spring forages. We can’t wait to taste this Fall’s honey harvest! Honey from Miss Bee Haven is available as an add-on to your fruit boxes. It is delicious.