Winter is usually in full force in January in our area. Temperatures can vary over a wide range, but they have one thing in common: it’s cold! On the first weekend of January, there was a windchill warning issued. Environment Canada was forecasting windchill values of -30C or colder. The actually temperature was around -20, but when you throw in a 40 km/h wind, it isn’t fit for beekeeper nor bees!
January’s a month of “don’t touch!” The bees have been safely ensconced in their hives for a couple of months, it’s way to cold to open the hives, and there’s almost nothing helpful that you could do anyway.
My son and I trekked out to have a listen to the Russian hives on the weekend. This is our first winter with Russians and they have a reputation for overwintering extremely well. We’re keen to see how this works out.
This group of six hives is at the western edge of a hayfield with a dense copse of spruce and cedar trees around them that act as a wonderful windbreak. You’ll notice the hives aren’t wrapped for winter. the conventional
wisdom is that you must wrapped and insulate your hives for winter or they’ll all die, but we haven’t found that to be the case. Moisture is the enemy in winter, not the cold. As long as there’s enough ventilation for water vapour to escape, they’ll survive just fine. A simple upper entrance takes care of that nicely.
One of the first things you’ll often notice as you approach a hive in winter is dead bees in the surrounding snow. It can be alarming, but it’s perfectly normal. Bees dying inside the hive can lead to all kinds of nastiness, so workers leaving the hive for a final flight is one of the best things they can do in winter to ensure the survival of their sisters. Cameron and I have found bees in the snow more than 50m away from hives in our home yard. That’s a determined bee!
The weather was warmer than average, so it made it much easier to put my ear to the hives for a listen. Thankfully: I forgot my stethoscope. 😛
This always makes me nervous: I’ve been second-guessing any steps we took in the fall, but the proof is in the pudding. A quiet hive is probably a dead hive, but being able to hear a good buzz is the best!
I’m not 100% certain about one of them, but the other 5 are all buzzing away beautifully! We’ve been told that Russians overwinter on what appear to be impossibly small clusters, but the one hive still sounds like it’s packed!