Farm Farm

The Bees Do Some Winter Housekeeping

There's quite a bit of snow on top of the hive.

There is quite a bit of snow here in Connecticut. A big problem in the winter in a beehive is not necessarily keeping them warm (unless you live in an extremely cold winter climate, but some insulation is a good idea. The real problem with hives in the winter is moisture. Being new to top-bar beekeeping, I read up on the subject a bit. Unfortunately it got cold very quickly here and I did the best I could insulating the hive with foam insulation, burlap and heavy jute twine.

Insulating the hive for winter.

In addition to insulation surrouding the top, I put a piece covering the entire underside of the hive, wrapped it all in several layers of burlap, and tied it tightly and carefully with heavy jute twine.

Bees are really just the most fascinating creatures on earth. I’m in the middle of building myself a new top bar hive and this one is going to have a “viewing window” on the side of the hive. I’ll probably while many an hour just watching them work, and I’m excited about having this viewing window.

Now during the summer if you spend some time watching the hive, you will see bees carry off dead bees. Bees have a relatively short life cycle, so when bees die naturally there are “undertaker” bees (everyone has a job in a bee colony), that carry off their dead hive-mates and drop them off away from the hive. This is normal, hygienic behavior and shows they are keeping the hive clean and tidy.

What I’ve noticed this winter on the few occasions when we’ve had a warmer (above freezing) sunny day is that the “undertakers” take this opportunity to do some quick housekeeping. Because of the weather they don’t travel far to drop off their dead sisters, but rather just quickly dump them outside the hive entrance and head back into the warmth. It’s just absolutely fascinating.

The "Undertaker Bees" do some quick housekeeping on a warm sunny day, depositing their dead hive mates outside of the hive.

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