If you weren't able to make it to Liz Huxter's field day in Grand Forks, not to worry! We've got all the details and resources right here for you.
Expert beekeeper Liz Huxter of Kettle Valley Queens taught attendees about beekeeping in the Kootenay and Boundary region. This field day focused on important factors and techniques for overwintering hives and nucs (small hives), which the Huxters have used for over 30 years in their commercial apiary business selling bees and queens.
Summary of key points for overwintering hives:
August 1: Check for disease and Varroa mites (you must enter winter with a disease-free hive)
September: Check for a queen bee (you need a queen!)
September 15: last feeding (do not provide anymore food to the bees)
Hive location: store away from wind and frost and use some light insulation around your hive. Liz has a good system for insulating and storing nucs.
Consider the spring weather when choosing your hive's location, including good sun exposure, dry and access to early season pollen.
What Liz Has Learned from her Data
Enclosure is thermally stable (driven by R-Value), energy balance seems to favour -2 to 10C range (90% of temperature values below cluster and above slatted rack), this is the metabolic rate sweet spot. (95% between -6C and 12C).
Enclosure is the colony's primary mode of cold defense - even at -40C enclosure outside Temperature correlates with heat loss calculation R2>0.9 and internal Tmin shows minor relationship with outside temperature which was clearly shown in my analysis of a wooden hive
Starvation is low risk if keeper ensures adequate honey stores. It is easily accessible throughout winter, consumption is predictable at all temperatures in my setup.
Bees can quickly heat up interior of hive (volume dependent) due to various known (disturbance, brood rearing) and unknown as described in an earlier post reasons at a minimal energy cost. Therefore, increasing heat output to maintain brood nest will have minimal impact on honey consumption.
Enclosure effectively reduces cold stress on bees, only lower surface area of hemispherical cluster gets exposed to colder temperatures but much warmer than external temperatures due to heat buoyancy effect and mixing of incoming and outgoing air (only one lower entrance). Energy saving process (like HRVs - Heat Recovery Ventilation systems)
Based on my CDH (cluster Degree Hours 8C), winter equivalent intensity is reduced by 50-60% of what the bees would have to endure without the insulated enclosure.
- Liz Huxter
Ready to Learn More?
Check out these resources:
Ministry of Agriculture
Honeybee Production Guide: This guide offers extensive information on diseases and pests, bee packages, seasonal management, legislation and much more.
Bees (apiculture): More resources regarding the study and management of honeybees, including food and bee business management.
BC Honey Producers
BC Honey Producers: Explore the website for upcoming events and scientific research.
Resource Centre: Explore studies and bee counts from throughout the province.
Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Honeybee Enterprise Budgets: Cost and revenue for raising honeybees in BC.
North of 60 Beekeeping
Guide to Overwintering Hives: Find information and best practices for overwintering hives in extreme temperature conditions.
Past Bee Events
Improve Your Beekeeping Workshop: This one day educational workshop welcomed Karen and Gil Pedersen of Pedersen Apiaries, Saskatchewan, to provide beekeepers with information on queen reading, spring management, disease management and preparing and overwintering nucs.