It seems like every time you see an article on bees everything looks picture perfect. Clean white bee boxes, sitting in perfect rows amongst a field of wild flowers in bloom. The reality of a working bee yard however is quite different. I thought you might find it interesting to see what your average bee yard looks like in the middle of winterizing bee hives.
Chris looks after about 65 hives so he is considered a small operation. We originally had bees primarily for the honey production but are now more interested in bee breeding. We do still harvest enough honey for our own personal use as once you’ve had the real thing there is no going back to honey in a super market plastic tub.
Winterizing Bee Hives
Chris now focuses his energies on raising queens and nucs (small bee hives) to supply other bee keepers with starter hives and new and better queens. Fall is the time of year the hives are gathered up from all their outsourced summer locations and brought back to our farm to be prepared for the winter.
Since we live in a wild animal corridor, it has been a real challenge keeping unwanted critters away from the hives. Surrounding the hives is a wire barrier, much like a fortress which keeps just about everyone out except for the bears. They are our biggest challenge, especially in the fall.
Bears are not discouraged and barge right through this first fence. Bears are a real concern as they can totally destroy a bee yard in a few short hours. Our next line of defence is an electric fence. The curious bear leads with his nose and receives a good shock should he touch the fence. This does not harm the bear, but he doesn’t like it. Most times he will saunter off to friendlier terrain, but it’s not a guarantee. We are always most happy when the bears finally go to bed, around the end of November.
Our winters are cold enough that the hives must be insulated for the cold months. Chris has used tar paper, but finds insulation board to be more effective. Each hive must be wrapped.
When the sun shines on a fall day the bees come out but there is not much left for them. Chris gives them a special treat to keep them busy while he works. He mixes up a sugar syrup solution that they love.
Once the hives are wrapped, he will add the insulated lids and outfit each hive with a mouse guard. When you’ve done all you can do, you close up the fence and hope for the best. See you in the spring!!
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