The bee colony is at its smallest in late November and December as the queen slows or stops laying altogether, creating a broodless colony. You may find dead bees at the entrance of the hive, which is normal winter attrition. Scrape these out so the bees have easy entrance into and out of the hive.
If you are worried the bees might starve in the winter and temperatures are below 50 degrees, feeding can be accomplished in many ways using plain white table sugar. Do not use powdered sugar or sugar with additives such as brown sugar or molasses. Choices would include home-made fondant; goop made by stirring just enough water into white table sugar to hold the sugar granules together; or just a ZipLock bag of dry sugar with some slits cut on top of the bag. Placing the sugar can be on top of the inner cover or on top of the brood box or a 2” high spacer box called an eke can be placed between the top box and the inner cover to make space for the fondant or sugar cakes.
Make sure the hive is tilted so the water and condensation created by the bees drains toward the front of the hive and runs down and away. Last month several methods for ventilation were suggested. An additional technique is to cut a 3” by 3/8” inch slot in the front lower rim of the inner cover. Push the telescoping cover forward to provide access to the opening.
There can be bee activity during periodic warm spells. Capitalize on this opportunity to check the health of your hive but do not disturb the cluster of bees if the bees are not flying. Take note of the colonies that are flying a little or not at all. Do a cursory check for weight by lifting the back of the hive. To determine if the hive is alive place your ear against the hive wall, thump it with your hand, and listen for the buzz.
Protect not-in-use supers and brood boxes from wax moths by leaving them open and exposed to light. Another technique is to create a stack of boxes and put Paramoth crystals on a piece of paper on top of every 5th super. (NEVER use moth products containing Napthalene or you’ll ruin all your wax). Then place a lid on top. Vapors kill the moths but not the eggs. Freezing is an option for killing the eggs.
With these final tasks completed, do not disturb the hives through January. Read technical books and journals. Make plans for the coming year: medication, re- queening, equipment purchases, and migrations. Buy, build, and repair woodenware and equipment. Buy the bottles and packaging you will need for selling your honey and wax. Render old combs into clean wax.
Beeswax production in most hives is about 1.5 -2 % of the total honey yield.
Bee Facts from ‘The Beekeeper’s Handbook” by Sammataro and Avitabile