Temperatures are dropping all around the northern hemisphere as December blows in. Although winter doesn't officially begin until the Winter Solstice on December 21, 2020, winter weather, blizzards and deep freezes can start at anytime. 

In autumn, beekeepers should inspect hives to ensure they can survive the elements and rodents.

Here are some words of advice from the Lovely Greens beekeeper on the Isle of Man. Make sure the bees have made enough honey to carry them through winter. If they have not, give them extra food now. It is best to feed them with honey collected from them previously, for instance older honey or baker's honey. Honey is better for their health than sugar water and after all, they made it in the first place for the very purpose of feeding the colony through winter. The extra honey will also help them to survive through to early spring.

The colony must be water-tight, weather-proof and dry. Under no circumstances should rodents like mice be able to get inside. Check for any openings big enough for them to slip in. They will eat the bees and honey. Put mouse guards in place instead of entrance reducers so air can keep flowing through the colony all winter long. You only need to use entrance blocks if you fear that robber bees from another colony will plunder the hive.  

Preparing the Honeybees for Winter is a 4:02-minute video by Lovely Greens on the Isle of Man in the Irish Sea:



On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, at Western Dakota Tech (WDT) in South Dakota, beehives are kept on campus and beekeeping classes are taught. Bees are still buzzing around, but what will happen as winter weather hits? This can happen any day now.

Tim Moran is a beekeeper and WDT instructor in Rapid City. He recommends feeding bees with sugar water or honey extract before and during the winter.

Pounds of honey were extracted, after which the beehives on the WDT campus were prepped for the approaching winter.

According to Moran, when winterizing beehives there are four key factors to consider: wind-breaking, insulation, mitigating moisture and supplemental feeding.

If you attend to these factors, you will give your bees a good advantage for making it through the winter.

If the beehives are not properly protected in winter, he says, the bees will not survive even though they are in hives, any more than they would survive out in the wild. If moisture builds up inside the hives, added to the freezing cold temperatures, the bees cannot survive in such conditions.

So, bee prepared as a responsible beekeeper in a cold climate to do your due diligence on behalf of your bee colonies. Otherwise, when you open your hives in early spring, you will probably be greatly disappointed.