Beekeeping Tips for November and December
by Todd Balsiger
November and December are two months to enjoy the lack of
bee work. That being said, Iwill still make you think that
there is a lot to do by what I write below:
- For us in hte Northwest, excessive moisture in our hives
is one of our biggest concerns. Make sure lids are
watertight, that hives are tilted so water drains out and
away, and that there is sufficent ventilation. This is even
more important in January when brrod rearing and metabolism
increase hive moisture.
- At this time the bees are clustered together in
dormancy, except for those periodic warm spells that allow
the bees to break their cluster, move closer to stored
honey, and make those all important cleansing (defecating)
- These periodic warm spells afford the opportunity to
visually assess the health of our hives and to do emergency
manipulations, if necessary. As a rule, never open a hive
during the winter unless there is a good reason and the
temperature is at least 45°F. Work around the
cluster rather than through it.
- Take note of the colonies that are flying little or not
at allduring these periodic warm spells. Do a cursory check
for weight (lift the hive to assess) and to determine
whether or not the hive is alive (place your ear against the
wall, theump it with your hand, and listen for the buzz).
- For hives low on stores, feed fondant or frames of
honey, or possibly retire the colony. Do not feed syrup at
this time. Bees cannot remove the extra moisture, and too
much water in the bees diet in conjunction with confinement
leads to disentery.
- An ideal way to feed fondant is to use lids with rims
and to pour the fondant directly into the void. These lids
can have up to 5 pounds of feed and last 2-3 weeks.
- Drivert has been discussed as an alternative to regular
fondant (or dry sugar) on the OSBA Message Board. Drivert
has existed for at least 30 years as a potential alternative
for emergency feed. It is composed of 92% finely pulverized
sucrose along with 8% invert sugar. According to C&&H,
drivert is "a dry fondant sugar used in icings and
- For dead-outs, determien why the hive succumbed (usually
queenlessness) and make sure frames are free of scale from
American foulbrood. Shake out the dead bees. Then clean and
return the equipment to storage.
- Check your apiary occasionally -- especially after a
wind storm. Make sure that the lids are secure and verify
that animals (e.g., mice, bears, and humans) have not been
bothering (e.g., chewing, eating, or vandalizing) the hives.
- Consider placing your order for queens now. Demand for
queens has increased during the last few years.
- Give honey and/or candles to family, friends, farmers,
and growers for the season and holidays.