Counting down to 2018 it is turning into a cold winter for the bees. Temperatures are hovering well below freezing. Any standing water is frozen solid.
A couple months back we began to prepare the hives for the chill of winter by creating an insulated space around the hives using 2″ foam insulation. The insulation sits on plywood and is capped by a large outer cover or by a second sheet of plywood. This creates a well ventilated almost cozy place for the bees to ball up and survive.
One key element is the ventilated front insulation panel. By leaving a gap at the bottom (in front of the lower hive entrance) and a hole up top (in front of the top entrance) the hive has natural circulation. To add to this the hives are topped with a screen top cover and moisture absorbing board which allows for more ventilation and for absorption of any moisture that vents out of the top of the hive.
On a couple of the lighter hives, we have also installed small 40 watt bulbs protected by sheet metal that sit below the lower hive body and turn on at night if all goes well with the electricity. These keep the hives a little warmer and have been helpful in keeping the bees going during the winter.
On top of all this there is the lovely sweet fondant for the bees to enjoy over the winter. This sits above the main hive body on top of the frames in a space created by a wooden spacer. On Christmas we added a little fondant to two of the hives. They still have some left from the previous feeding so this should last until the end of February.
We have our fingers crossed that the bees are happy and healthy inside their winter homes. The keys are enough warmth, enough food and enough ventilation. I am also tempted to wet a sponge and give the bees a little water. I may wait until temps move up a little from here.
Happy new year from the girls!