Winterizing Our Bees

We had two temperate November days this week. Taking advantage of temperatures in the 60’s yesterday we prepared all three hives for wintertime.

We checked the yellow jacket traps; emptying and replacing the soda inside as necessary.

All three honey bee hives were a flurry of activity, especially hive No. 3 which had a cloud of bees out front by time we were done. Thankfully hive No. 1 had a lot of bees coming and going from its entrance.

Winter Prep

  1. Locate as much honey towards the center of the upper deep box (second box from the bottom). I actually did this the last time I checked the hives a few weeks ago.
  2. Put an entrance reducer in place for each hive. Once again, did this a couple of weeks ago to combat yellow jackets
  3. Removed the sugar-water feeders from the top of the hives. They were all still fairly full so the bees seemingly stopped taking sugar-water, which is normal. Also removed the empty mid-sized super that shrouded the feeders
  4. Installed a new form of insulation on all three hives. You may recall last year I made a shroud out of rigid insulation for the hive, which worked well but was labor intensive. It also fell apart when I took it off, so assembling it may have been a challenge. This year we got pre-made insulation “blankets” that wrap around the hive. They’re basically heavy-duty black plastic, garbage bag like material, with insulation inside. I slid one over each hive. The hives are set up in this order: deep, deep, medium super, top board. I stapled the insulating blanket just below the top board (inner cover), which leaves enough space for the bees to enter and exit in the front, down low. Take a look at the photos below for a better idea of what’s going on. I used staples, but push pins would work too (I just didn’t have any handy). The insulation should be reusable year to year. It’s a new product so we’ll test it out and see how it goes.
  5. On top of each inner cover we placed nearly a full bag of sugar. The sugar will absorb moisture in the hive all winter and crystallize. Theoretically it will provide a source of nourishment as well, though I’m not sure if that’s right. The wife got this tip from a fellow apiarist at the grocery store of all places. We’ll see. I’m not sure what harm it could cause, so why not.
  6. I placed two plastic shims on top of the inner cover and then installed the outer (telescoping?) cover. This gives the roof of each hive a little angle to shed water. You may not recall but I inserted a strip of 1/2″ wood along the one side of each outer cover to make them “air tight” when the wasps were attacking. Normally the cover has some play left to right which allows insects (and mice!) to get into the hive up top. By leaving that strip in it’ll make a tight seal up top and hopefully allow the hive to retain more heat during the winter as well as keep pests out.
  7. Lastly, I will put some rigid insulation on top of the outer cover to keep heat from escaping. I use the pink stuff I have left over from last year’s insulating shroud.
illustrations by nate skow via

illustrations by nate skow via We don’t use a queen excluder, but everything else if pretty much how our hive is set up for winter. The bottom deep is virtually empty in some of the hives. All the action happens in the upper deep.



So everything is looking good on the bee front. Hive No. 1 is doing well, just have to see if they have enough honey. Hive No. 2 has plenty of honey hopefully, if there’s any left over then we will harvest that in the spring. Hive No. 3 should be have enough honey, but I doubt enough that we’d harvest next year.

There’s nothing else to do bee-wise now ’til spring. Stay tuned for some posts on an indoor project I’m working on right now. Until then, keep warm.

4 thoughts on “Winterizing Our Bees

    • Thanks. We got a bunch of snow so hopefully the bees are snuggling together. I still have to put insulation on top of the hives.

      Inside project is pretty large. I’ve been collecting photos and working slowly but surely. Need inspiration to get back into writing. Soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I lost my bees in the fall during an unexpected cold snap, so I’ll try this out next fall. What kind of insulation is this, is it specifically for hives? I was also wondering about the size of your hives. One thing I thought contributed to my bees demise was that I left three boxes and it possibly had too much cold space. My hive is an 8-frame garden hive so all the boxes are 6 inches deep.

    Thanks for this idea!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The stack above is what we leave every winter, two tall 10-frames and one medium sized 10-frame box. The bees ball up in the center so I don’t think it matters too much if the upper or lower boxes are empty. The insulation sleeve is something we bought; I forget which supplier we got it through but surely it can be found online somewhere. Our bees didn’t survive this year so we don’t have any bees currently.


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