I started out with one bee hive in the spring that turned into five hives that I just prepared for winter. It is important that I get them winterized properly. If the bees make it through the winter, I will have over twenty hives to winterize next season and a ton of honey to jar too.
Step 1. Being new to bees I spent a few hours watching videos and reading articles before I felt comfortable enough to tackle the task on my own. I discovered that bees don't hibernate or fall into a deep sleep during the winter. Moisture is the most common cause of death and not the cold weather. The honey that they eat causes them to produce more moisture into their hive and that bears actually go crazy for the larva, comb and not the honey we are made to believe drives them crazy. Bees produce heat by flapping their wings around the queen which is located at the core of what I call the bee ball. They will need to be protected from the wind and wetness, they will need ventilation, food to last the winter and protection from predators.
Step 2. I have placed my bees among the trees against popular hive placement in open fields. This helps protect from the elements but makes it easier for bears, skunks and other animals that are brave enough to eat bees. Since I decided to wait until the snow and cold was here to stay before putting the bees away I should not have to worry about hibernating predators until spring. I decided to keep the hives where they are for now and not move them to a shed or shelter only to move the hives again in the spring.
Step 3.Bees produce honey to eat but honey makes them produce moisture in their hive which translates to death in the winter. Sugar was the last thing I wanted to give my bees, however knowing that I did not have enough of their own honey I had no choice but to make a sugar doe to sustain them over the winter. I set up each hive with a candy board holding 12 pounds of sugar doe. I found a big pot and poured 3 bags of sugar equaling 12 pounds. One cup per bag or 4 pounds of sugar will give you a doe like texture that will harden and not fall through the bottom of the candy board. I added a table spoon of vinegar to the water to help prevent the sugar from going mouldy.
Once the sugar was all mixed up and clumpy I dumped it into the candy box and packed it down to create a solid layer. I placed a 4" by 4" piece of wood about 2 inch thick on the base of the box before putting the sugar doe in so that the bees can come up through the bottom of the board and into the box to eat as well as provide ventilation.
Making the Candy & dehumidifier box
I found some 2" x 4" wood studs, cut them into enough 19" and 16.5 " pieces to make 5 boxes for 5 hives. Using a table saw I reduced their thickness in half crating enough pieces to male the 2 boxes for each hive that I need. after hammering them together I tacked on some wire mesh with 1/2" spaces so that the bees can go through to eat. I found some fine screen mesh that I used for the bottom of the moisture trap. Leaving the sugar clumpy allows for it to take on some of the moisture that is created from the humidity and prevents moisture from falling back down onto the bees. Wood shaving capture the heat and moisture. As long as the top of the hive stays warmer that the core of the hive humidity will not form. I also drilled a hole in the front of the candy box to allow for both air to flow and the bees to escape and enter the hive.
Wrapping them up
Step 5. My candy and moisture trap boxes are ready. With my bee suit on I remove the cover from the hive box and place the sugar box on top of the open hive. I then place the moisture trap on top of the candy box and then fill it with wood shavings. After placing the cover over the moisture box I took tape and sealed the seams in between the boxes to help air from traveling though. I then took some empty paper garden bags used to store fallen leaves and repurposed them as vapour barriers by cutting, wrapping then taping them around each hive.
Ready for Winter
Step 6. My bees are located in a good spot away from foreseeable harm for now. They have enough food stored for the winter or at least until I check on them in a couple of months. They have a moisture trap and a means to keep the warm air from escaping. Their hive has a vapour barrier and last but not least I have placed plastic, canvas and a pallet over the hives to keep the elements out and tarp from blowing off and away.
Thanks to the kind people who have supported our homestead with donations of money, perishable foods, purchases of art, physical help and words of encouragement. Keep the support coming.