The Beekeepers Calendar - January
We have noticed over the past several years an increasing awareness of our customers about the problems with declining bee populations and the various diseases encountered in the hive. We continually receive questions from individuals at our various events, from our retailers, as well as telephone and e-mail enquiries. Among the questions asked are “What do the bees do in the wintertime?
With this in mind, we decided to provide information under a new heading “The Beekeepers Calendar.” Each month we will post information on what is going on with the beehives as well as what we, the beekeepers are doing. We hope you enjoy this information.
Last fall after extracting the honey and treating to control varroa and tracheal mite, we reduced the size of each hive to either one or two brood chambers (those boxes in which the queen and the bees will live through the winter). We reduced the size of the entrance and insulated the hive to help the bees keep warm throughout the winter.
In January, the bees are close together in a tight egg shaped cluster to stay warm. They eat very little food, only the honey that we left them to get through the winter. On warm days, you will probably see a few bees leaving the hive and taking what is known as a cleansing flight. Bees do not go to the bathroom inside the hive but fly outside for this function.
Throughout the winter season, bees will die from old age and then drop to the bottom board. During the summer, they are removed by the colony and taken outside but in the winter bodies accumulate on the bottom board. On warm days some of the dead may be removed by other colony members. This is why one will usually see dead bees on the snow in front of beehives. It doesn’t mean that the hive is unhealthy, but the contrary. In a healthy hive there is strong capability for removing the dead bees.
At this time of year the bee yards are inspected, particularly after a severe storm, to ensure that the tops are still secure and the bees are not exposed to the elements.