A Peek at the Beehives in Winter

January 11, 2013
Last, week the hives were covered in snow.

Earlier this week I went to our monthly local beekeeper’s meeting.  As always, it is so wonderful connecting with folks, checking in with them and hearing updates about their lives and the bees.  Over the course, of chatting, I quickly learned that many folks had already lost their hives and were busy ordering nucs and packages to replace their lost colonies in the spring.  As the temperatures were expected to warm up this week, I decided that I needed to take a peek into my hives sooner than later. Peeking at beehives in winter can be tricky.

I knew that my bees were still alive.  I had seen them a few weeks ago buzzing around the blooming Heath in the yard.  In fact, they were even inside my house!  A contractor working one day left the front door ajar.  I guess the bees were curious.  It took me a while to realize what was flying inside my home.  I was happy to say that they left as quickly as they had arrived.

When keeping bees it is always recommended to start with two hives if finances permit.  This has several benefits.  You can always compare them to one another.  Sometimes, you can identify problems in the hive much quicker.  You can also do some manipulation between the hives to help an ailing or failing hive too.(but that is for another post all together)

Yesterday the temperature reached 46 degrees F and the sun was peeking out from the clouds.  I suited up. I then, with my hive tool in hand, headed over to the hives.  There was no activity to be seen at the entrances.  The hives were quiet.

First, I decided to open the hive closest to the house, the one I have called Briar.  I removed the outer cover and with the hive tool, pried the inner cover open.  I discovered that the bees had begun to eat the candy board that I had placed on the hive.  There were a few dead bees on the candy board but no signs of life.  Were they dead?  I quickly replaced both covers not wanting to chill the bees and then  I squatted on the ground near the hive.  I gave a gently tap on the side of the hive.  A buzz.  I heard lots of buzzing.  They were still alive.  This was a good sign.  They must just be deeper down in the hive utilizing their stored honey as fuel instead of the candy board at this time.

Inside Briar, no signs of activity

Next I opened the adjacent hive. This one is named Willow.  I removed the outer cover.  Through the inner cover’s hole, I could see bees on the candy board.  I gently pried the inner cover off to reveal bees- lots of bees!  They had consumed almost half of this candy board.  These bees were not only hungry, their population was bustling!  I interpreted finding the bees on the candy board as one of two things.  First, the bees could just be clustering near the top of the hive and I happened to catch them there or second, the bee’s population was so large that they have already depleted their stores in the hive and are now relying on the candy board for food.

beehives in winter
Willow was buzzing with lots of active happy bees.

Both of the hives were nice and dry inside.  There was no evidence of condensation or moisture near the bees that I have read so much about from folks during the winter.  However, there was a tiny bit of green fuzzy mold on the top of the inner cover and the inside of the outer cover.  To increase the ventilation just a bit and curtail the mold, I placed a 6 inch long stick with a 1/2 inch diameter across the back of the inner cover’s top and replaced the outer cover.  This should help get a bit more air inside the hive and allow any excess moisture to have an easier time escaping.

A bit of mold on the top of the inside cover.
A touch of mold inside one corner of the outer cover

So for now, I am leaving both hives alone and will recheck them in about a month.  I have a feeling that I am going to have to replete the candy board in February and I might just have to make a split from Willow come spring time.  I certainly do not want them to swarm because they have outgrown their home.

This post is linked up to Deborah Jean’s Dandelion House.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest


Author/Blogger/Freelancer-Sharing adventures with backyard chickens, beekeeping, gardening, crafting, cooking and more.



10 thoughts on “A Peek at the Beehives in Winter”

  1. Thanks so much for all your terrific information! I followed your instructions and added a candy board as well…thank you, it was so easy to put together. We had an unusually warm, sunny day this week, and a peek inside found the bees were at the top of the frames. I quickly added the candy board, then closed them back up. I'm crossing my fingers, as this is my first year in beekeeping! -Mary

  2. Awesome photos ! I am glad they are all ok . Hope they make it through the season for you ! It is mild and pouring rain here today most of our snow is gone making it a muddy mucky mess . Have a good day !

  3. I found this very interesting! I am taking a beekeeping course through Penn State, I am currently looking for a bee hive starter kit, and have not yet joined our local bee keeping club. The course said that now is the time to order my bees. I have followed you posts about chickens and was thrilled to see this about bees!

  4. Enjoyed reading about your bees!! I WANT BEES! My husband won't let me get chickens, but he's OK with bees!! This past spring when all my vines were in bloom- there were no bees!! I've gotta take a class and learn about them in this area!! Thank you for sharing!

  5. I checked my bees yesterday and they were doing well too… had eaten half of the sugar patty we'd put in in mid-December so we replaced with fresh food. We'll have to hope for no swarms this spring too since their numbers are pretty good.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.