Average high and low temperatures in October are 60º F and 46º F and November is 52º F and 40º F so bees are now working their way to a cluster sometime in October when temperatures are below 57º F.
To prepare for this event there are some very important tasks for the beekeeper.
- Upper Ventilation is extremely important because as external temperatures fall, bees cluster together and shiver their flight muscles to warm up their bodies. The temperature in the center of the cluster can be over 90 degrees. Direct the moisture condensation from the rising heat by tipping the hives slightly forward. Condensation then runs down the front end of the boxes. Consider improving the air flow with a slatted rack, using a screened bottom board, and having a notch cut out on the inner cover. It is quite controversial whether the notch faces up or faces down. A moisture quilt placed above the honey super to absorb moisture is quite popular.
- Recommendations vary regarding pounds of honey needed for over wintering but about 50-60 pounds is recommended. Approximate honey weight for a western frame is 4 pounds and a deep frame 6 pounds.
- The cluster tends to move up during the winter so locate honey and pollen frames on both sides of the brood and above it.
- Insulating hives on the exterior is not necessary in the northwest. Do use an inner cover which insulates the hive from the inside. Protection from extreme wind can be accomplished, for instance, by flanking the hives with hay bales or building a wooden wind break.
- Reduce the hive entrance to less than one inch to prevent mice from entering the warm hive and making it more difficult for yellow jackets to enter.
- Reduce the hive volume by removing empty supers
- Winter survival depends on a population of about 20,000-30,000 bees which is 8-10 frames covered on both sides. * Two small but healthy colonies can be combined to achieve this size. It is not recommended to combine 2 weak hives.
Bee Fact: The energy in1 ounce of honey would provide one bee with enough energy to fly around the world.
*This statistic source is “The Beekeeper’s Handbook” by Sammataro and Avitabile