Checking Hives in Cold Weather
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Geneva, Illinois, USA
    Posts
    90

    Default Checking Hives in Cold Weather

    I live in northern IL. At what point does it hurt the bees for me to be opening the hives for inspection? It has been a warm Fall and we have not had a frost yet.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    3,796

    Default Re: Checking Hives in Cold Weather

    Bees start to cluster at 57F. I will do a remove and examine frames manipulation at 60F when there is not too much wind.

    I will pop a top and look to see where the bees are if I am concerned that they might starve at -20F. I'd be surprised if the top is off for more than 10 seconds for that.

    Depending on what you have, checking to make sure the bees are alive in winter can be done by, looking for cleansing flight evidence, thermal imaging, listening to the hive with a stethoscope, knocking on the hive... All without opening up the hive. It is not a calendar thing.

  4. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Location
    Great Falls Montana
    Posts
    7,829

    Default Re: Checking Hives in Cold Weather

    Why are you inspecting and what are you going to do about it? Inspect early so the bees have the warmest part of the day to recover from the disruption.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Location
    Rensselaer County, NY, USA
    Posts
    5,536

    Default Re: Checking Hives in Cold Weather

    And remember each time you manipulate frames there is risk of queen damage or loss. So the benefits of inspecting have to outweigh that risk.

    In the summer because you can expect to be looking in again soon, and any unexpected queen issues can be easily dealt with by you, or the bees, the consequences are not as dire. Late in the season that calculus changes because the bees can't fix it on their own after cold weather sets in and there are no more drones; you likely couldn't supply a mated queen without great expense and trouble, and most critically, you wouldn't even know the queen was lost until too late to fix it. Hives w/o queens during the winter usually don't survive.

    So pack 'em up and let them be except for any needed checking on supplementary stores, and perhaps on a warm day in mid winter helping them out by pulling out any accumulation of dead bees from the bottom of the hive.

    If you run sticky boards you can get a surprising amount of current info about what's going on above by regularly pulling them and studying the debris all winter long. In late January or early February you may see clear evidence that they are capping cells, which tells you that you have a live and laying queen. But you can also deduce many other things from the junk that falls down on the boards. I run SBB above solid boards so I can keep an eye on things in winter as much as for using them to monitor mite levels year-round.

    Nancy

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