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❄️⬢⬡ Inside the Hive: 5 Jobs for Beekeepers in Winter ⬢⬡❄️

Winter can be challenging for beekeepers, as the colder temperatures and lack of flowers can make it difficult to keep bees healthy and productive. However, there are still plenty of jobs that beekeepers can do during the winter months to maintain their hives and prepare for the spring season. In this blog post, we'll explore some of the tasks and jobs for beekeepers in winter, including hive maintenance, equipment cleaning and repair, and preparing for the upcoming honey flow season. Whether you're a seasoned beekeeper or just starting, these tips will help you keep your bees healthy and thriving all year round. Every beekeeping year is different, and jobs like this will depend on where the hives are located and the weather conditions.

Taking care of the bees in Winter - Parakore Honey, beekeepers on the field
Beekeeping in the Winter

Beekeeping - Preparing Apiaries through the Winter Months

Let's assume that you have insulated your hives and that the hives are protected against predators to keep your hive healthy. To prevent starvation at this time of year when nectar sources are scarce, always ensure sufficient pollen stores and sugar syrup for emergency feeding. Another top priority should be checking brood frames for signs of rot or wax moth infestation while regularly monitoring honey stores in honey supers. Ventilation through hive entrances is key to preventing condensation, which leads to mould growth in colder temperatures. Taking these precautions during colder months like June and July, you’ll set yourself up for success during next season's honey crop. But what other jobs can you prepare to keep busy?

Cleaning and repairing Super Boxes

During winter, beekeepers have several important jobs, including cleaning and repairing the super boxes where bees store honey. Keeping these boxes clean and maintained ensures hive health and prevents any diseases from spreading. This is also a great time of year to check for cracks or holes that might allow predators like wasps or birds into the hive.

Preparing Frames for the Hive

As beekeepers, it's important to maintain and clean our frames regularly. At the end of every season, you may find yourself with frames with old or damaged wax. Don't worry - now is the perfect time to clean or replace them! Start by cutting out the wax and saving it for processing. Remember to keep dirty and clean wax separately, as they can be used for different purposes. Any damaged or dirty frames can be set aside and used as fire lighters, so don't throw them away just yet! Remember that frames are relatively cheap, and it's only worth refurbishing them if they are in good condition, so assess each frame carefully before deciding what to do with it.

To properly clean the frames, there are two options available. The first option is to boil them in water that contains a little washing soda. This method is effective but can be time-consuming and may require additional effort. The second and better option is to use an old super box and wallpaper stripper to steam sterilise them. This method is more efficient and less labour-intensive.

After cleaning the frames, it's important to add new foundation for the bees to draw out in preparation for the new season. Any frames with good drawn foundation should be frozen first to kill off any wax moth before storing them.

Nothing is worse than broken frames becoming stuck in the processing plant and having to cause the plant to stop to recover them. Properly maintaining beehive frames will ensure healthy and productive hives, ultimately leading to a successful beekeeping operation.

Cleaning Queen Excluders

Beekeepers must remove any Queen Excluders to allow bees access to winter stores. Neglecting to do so can result in unhealthy and weakened colonies in the next season. Proper maintenance of Queen Excluders during winter is crucial for successful beekeeping. Cleaning Queen Excluders regularly ensures they are free from debris and buildup, which can harbour disease and negatively affect colony health. A mixture of hot water and soap is a suitable cleaning solution for thorough cleansing. Sterilisation with forced heat, such as a blow torch, is also recommended to eliminate any bacteria or viruses remaining on the excluders. Inspecting the excluders for any signs of damage or wear and tear during this process is also essential to ensure their effectiveness. Beekeepers prioritising cleaning and maintaining their Queen Excluders will reap the benefits of healthy, thriving colonies in the upcoming season.

Check and Repair Stands

Good stable stands ensure the bee hives are safe from predators and winds
Good stable stands ensure the bee hives are safe from predators and winds

One of the most important tasks during the season is checking and repairing the hive stands, which can become unstable due to harsh weather conditions. Ensuring that the stands are level is essential because uneven stands can cause problems with hive ventilation leading to starvation. Beekeepers must diligently inspect and repair any broken or damaged stands for rot. Adding extra weight to the stand will keep it stable, preventing it from being knocked over by predators or strong winds.

A good Beekeeper Never Stops Learning

Staying up-to-date with the latest techniques and trends in beekeeping is crucial to achieving success in this field. Joining local beekeeping associations or clubs can provide an excellent opportunity to network with other beekeepers and learn from their experiences. Dunedin Beekeepers Club have a wealth of information and has been running since 1980:

Reading books on beekeeping is a great way to expand your knowledge and improve your skills as a beekeeper. Beeline Supplies in Mosgiel is great for purchasing your winter reading material:

Use online resources such as webinars and forums to enhance your knowledge base. Locally in Otago - Chris Fraser has a fantastic channel on youtube that you can follow for tips and advice:

Finally, attending workshops and training sessions can help you gain new knowledge that will be useful during the next season. Chris also runs regular workshops, and details can be found on his Facebook page:

And, of course, the Beekeeping course at Otago Polytechnic:

There is always plenty of jobs and tasks for beekeepers throughout the Winter
Parakore Honey Beekeepers Winter 2023

Frequently Asked Questions

What do beekeepers do in the Winter?

Not much beekeeping, but certain tasks need to be taken care of to ensure the bees make it through to the spring. You don't want to put these jobs off until December, January and February, your busiest months. Get them done now during the colder months,

What do the worker bees and queen do during the cold weather?

In winter, worker bees huddle around the queen to maintain warmth and hive temperature while doing extra tasks like cleaning and caring for the remaining brood. The queen conserves energy by reducing egg-laying. The colony's survival is heavily dependent on the health and productivity of the workers and queen.

Do I need any special equipment to keep bees during winter?

Specific equipment such as insulated hives, moisture boards, and winter feeding supplies are necessary for beekeeping during winter. Ensuring the hive entrance is clear of snow or ice is crucial. Regular checks on food supply and bee health are vital during this period.

How do bees keep their hives warm in winter, May through to June?

During winter, bees cluster in their hive and vibrate their wings to generate heat. They also use propolis to insulate the hive and reduce the entrance size with beeswax to prevent drafts. Beekeepers can add insulation using thermal blankets or straw bales around the hive for protection.

How much time is required for Beekeeping?

Beekeeping is not just a hobby that requires a significant amount of time but also demands punctuality and preparedness. It's not a "set it and forget it" type of activity; it requires constant attention and care. Beekeepers must be able to devote their time when needed and address any issues immediately. This means having things staged and ready to go ahead of time. Anticipation and preparation are key to successful beekeeping. This is why tasks and "Jobs for Beekeepers in Winter" - as mentioned above are perfect here in New Zealand for the Winter Months of May, June and July.


Contact us for advice on beekeeping; we are always ready to share our knowledge
Parakore Honey Beekeepers - we are always here for advice

Winter is a crucial time for beekeepers as it prepares your bees for the upcoming spring and summer seasons. You can keep your hive healthy and thriving by doing these simple jobs. However, there's always more to learn in the world of beekeeping. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people will help you stay up-to-date with the latest information, techniques, and technologies. Get in touch with us now – we're always happy to help!

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