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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don't have my own hive yet, as I'm still a student, but I'm thinking of starting up when I return to Minnesota.

My county in MN is zone 4b....it gets cold! Do the bees require any special care over the winter? What's the best way to winterize a hive? Is beekeeping even practical in such a frigid climate?

All advice appreciated, thanks very much!

Hannah
 

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Lots of bees die every winter because they do not get the care they need, so yes, they need special care. Because our bees origional home was Africa and after that areas of Europe, they did not origionate in zone 4b MN. So we drop them into an unnatural environment for them they can still thrive but giving them some special care is not an unreasonable thing to expect to have to do.

There are three basics. They should be properly housed, have enough food stores, and go into winter healthy. Pretty much the same basics of life a human would need, and remove any one of those three and death may result. By healthy I mostly mean treated for varroa mites in fall, varroa mites are another unnatural parasite which was introduced to American bees by human folly only a few years ago and many bees are defenceless against them, human intervention is often needed.
 

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I'm in 4b, too, but in northern NY.

I winter my bees in insulated hives (of the large size recommended for MN), with lots of honey left for them (probably 80 or more lbs just of honey.)

And Oldtimer hit the nail on the head - they have to be in tip-top health starting months earlier so they can withstand the long confinement (mine have no natural forage for 6 months, and often stay inside the hive for a couple of months at a time. Pretty amazing for tropical bugs, isn't it?

I take a lot of care to make sure they are well-housed in a dry, cozy, well ventilated house, are supplied with a surplus-to-requirements amount of honey (that's all they eat in the winter) and they have no diseases or parasites that can weaken them during the winter. My bees have been asking for an internet connection, but I think they would just binge-watch beekeeping videos, so I've ignored their requests.

Keeping bees in a cold climate requires extra attention all year, but it is possible to do it well. Even though I started keeping bees on a whim a few years ago, those original colonies are still with me as I have never lost a colony.

If you find you like bees half as much as I do, you are in for a treat. I think keeping bees is like having an adult-scaled ant farm that you can play in, not just watch from the outside.

Enjambres
 

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University of Minnesota has an excellent booklet on wintering bees in Minnesota. They recommend three deep hivebodies and wrapping. I only use two hive bodies but wrap and insulate and provide supplimental winter feed. If I have done a good job killing varroa mites, my winter losses are very low. Lots of Minnesotans on this forum.
 

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Welcome to Bee Source, hannnah!

Give them Lauri's sugar bricks too for emergency feeding. A healthy hive can eat a lot sometimes 4 lbs of
sugar within a week in the cold winter time. Some will put quilt box on top to keep the excess moisture down because
wet bees cannot winter well.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Where in MN?

There are a lot of us here. This is my first year, and hence, my first winter.
I'm in the Twin Cities. Still looking into regulations that might forbid beekeeping within city limits...if anyone knows specifically about beekeeping regulations in St. Paul let me know!
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks for the advice! Any thoughts about moving the hive indoors-outdoors with the seasons? I've heard some advise it and some say absolutely not to.
 

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And once all of the above has been accomplished and you have your spring plans in place, one should relax and have a glass of homemade mead. Or learn to make it.

Bees roaming in the house in winter interfere with mead-making. I leave my bees outdoors where they belong.
 

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If you do you job the other three seasons, you have little if any work in winter.

I imagine. Some snow clearing may be in order in the real north however.
 

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Welcome to Beesource, Hannah!
Still looking into regulations that might forbid beekeeping within city limits...if anyone knows specifically about beekeeping regulations in St. Paul let me know!
If you are within the St Paul city limits, here are the rules (and there are lots:) of rules):
https://www.stpaul.gov/sites/default/files/Media Root/Bee Regulations.pdf

Note in particular Rule #12. :rolleyes:
Keep the neighbors 'happy':p if you wish to continue to have bees within city limits!


Also note that it appears St Paul levies fees just for an application, and then annual renewal fees as well. :shhhh:
https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/...al-control-information/keeping-animals-permit
https://www.stpaul.gov/sites/default/files/Media Root/Keeping of Animals Regulations 1 8 16.pdf
 

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To add to the winter responsibilities, I've been having a hard time finding when/if to do winter inspections and early feedings in northern climates. Does anyone have any advice in this regard? Some background on my hives (first winter for me) is below...

This is my first winter (zone 3b). My 3 hives were about 170 pounds each going into winter (two deeps) near Edmonton, AB. I was pretty comfortable with that weight based on what I've been reading. They got wrapped as a 4-pac (one set of empty boxes were used to make up the forth). I didn't add any solid sugar before wrapping them. How soon I would need to check on them and potentially add some backup sugar for them to eat. It is very cold here right now (-20°C highs) and may be for the foreseeable future. When is too early (or too late) to check on hives in this area and add any sugar, keep in mind I would have to completely unwrap the hives in order to check on them.

Thank you!
 

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Justbee01

Your hive weights certainly are not at all on the light side! If you did mite control to the level suggested by ministry of agriculture I dont think you have to worry about doing anything with them till March. I am guessing that your bees are of at least part Carniolan genetics. I have my colonies gang wrapped with some insulation and it will be virtually impossible to get into them till snow is gone. My wintering weight is around 130 lbs for doubles and I find at that weight they do not need any top feed. I think I get a similar winter to what you will face.
 

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I live in eastern Ontario so we know cold and miserable winters. This is my first year. I have two hives. They are 2 deeps(10 frames) with 2 FULL mediums ( 9 frames ) with quilt box each per hive. I did not harvest this year. I wanted to build the hive. I only treated for varroa. I have them in bee wrap and have the hive area surround with a wind break. Putting them to bed for the winter, both hives look amazing and i have done visuals on them every couple weeks or so. It is very hard to be patient and leave them alone until early spring. I have to have faith that I have left them healthy and with sufficient food. I believe I have. But that being said, I will see the truth when I crack them open in the Spring to feed protein patties. When I start to panic and go all nutso about my bees dying, my husband reminds me that they are insects and that if they die, he will renew the stock.
 

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Thanks for the advice! Any thoughts about moving the hive indoors-outdoors with the seasons? I've heard some advise it and some say absolutely not to.
Strong hives will do fine outdoors. Weak ones show some benefit from being taken indoors, as in, survival rate goes up a bit.

Btw, is there a map somewhere about these zones, that would cover more than US?
Edit: nevermind that, found them after I figured what I was looking for... 4 on most maps, 5 on some.
 
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