Winter Prep for The Hive

Fall has arrived here on the coast of California! Yes, it was 75 degrees yesterday, but it was a crisp 75 degrees! It felt like time to admit that my bees were not going to magically fill the empty box of comb that each had with honey and consolidate each hive for the winter. Apparently the girls have an easier time heating and defending a smaller hive in the winter, and my hives clearly had too much real estate. The consolidation process was pretty easy but the girls took great exception to being brushed off the frames of empty comb back into the boxes with brood and honey. To add insult to injury, I powder sugared them at the end. An assault!

This Passiflora edulis 'Fredrick" is hosting a bee fiesta!Passiflora edulis ‘Fredrick,”hosting a bee fiesta.

Both of my hives had very similar amounts of brood and stores for the winter (probably not enough- I’m still feeding). The far hive, however, had a couple of things that left me wondering. While the near hive had just one small section of drone comb on one brood frame, the far hive had sections of drone comb on three frames, and one of those was almost all drones. This is not a prime time for queens to mate and the bees, in theory, should be conserving energy for the winter and not raising resource sucking drones. On that same drone heavy frame I found 3 queen cups at the bottom. Although queen cups in this placement could mean swarming (which would not make sense, beyond it being out of season this hive had plenty of room and was not very strong) I have also read that sometimes the bees make these in case of emergency and won’t necessarily use them. I did some ruthless drone slaughtering (slashing across the tops of the drone cells with the sharp end of my hive tool until the puffy, white drone pupae were oozy and exposed) and left the queen cups. I saw the queen in this hive and she looked fine to my novice eye, but who knows what is going on in there. A laying worker? Bees confused about the season because I’m feeding them? I decided it was better to leave those cups in case the bees need to raise a new queen.  If any experienced beekeepers out there have any thoughts, I’d love to hear them!


6 thoughts on “Winter Prep for The Hive

  1. sally1137

    I’m a novice too, but I remember reading that producing too many drones is one of the indicators of a failing queen, so keep an eye on her!

    We captured a swarm of about 40,000 bees and about 40 pounds of honey off the overhang of a three story building last week and brought them home and set up a hive.

    The beekeeper that actually performed the capture says it’ll be unlikely that these girls survive the winter, but I’m doing my best, feeding them a quart of supersaturated sugar syrup daily, along with sugar water and the honey we harvested from their swarm hive.

    We have them in an old chicken house with lots of ventilation, but I think it will help protect them when it turns cold. We initially set it up with a brood box and two supers, but now I believe we need to take one of the supers out to allow them to keep warm more easily.

    I feed them daily without a suit and I think they are used to me. Bees are awesome!

  2. bdbatta

    Even if the drones emerge the workers won’t keep them around. They will kick them out of the hive.

    Did you also see worker brood? How many frames of nectar and honey do you have in your hive? I’m in a much more northern climate than you but in a two deep 10 frame per box brood chamber I’m told 12-18 frames of stores is optimal for my area. If you have a queen you should not have a laying worker.

    1. fullheartsfarm Post author

      Lots of worker brood! Each hive has about 3 and 3/4 frames of honey, all mediums. Not much! Our winter is sort of funny, though, with the first nectar flow in February. I’m feeding away, sugar syrup and pollen substitute.


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