Winter is nearly upon us. In fact, we've already had a few inches of snow, although it lasted only a day or so. Our overnight temperatures are forecasted to be below freezing, so it's time to make sure the bee hives are tucked in properly for the winter.
We've taken a number of precautions in an attempt to help the bees survive. First, we spaced out a few top bars to allow for more air circulation. The mold that I reported about two weeks ago has decreased, and we learned that the bees will clean it up themselves if there is sufficient air circulation. In warm weather we wouldn't want the bees to slip between the top bars, but there is no risk that they will break cluster in the winter so we're not worried about them moving into the vaulted roof.
We fed the weaker hive with cups of honey on the floor of the hive. It was astonishing how quickly they moved the honey from the cups into their comb where they'll need it later. In retrospect, I wish that I had fed that hive earlier in the fall. I may have missed my window of opportunity to feed, but it is our intention to manipulate them as little as possible. Besides, feeding bees does not guarantee success.
We surrounded the entire bee yard on three sides with a plastic covered fence designed to serve as a wind break. Sometimes the winds can be fierce, so we also anchored the hives to the ground with nylon straps and storm anchor hooks.
Finally, we wrapped each hive in an insulated "blanket" made of R-13 fiberglass insulation sealed in construction-grade garbage bags. We covered the blankets in tar paper secured with more nylon straps. Notice in the photograph that four of the six entrance openings have been covered with corks. Soon, we'll cover the fifth opening leaving only one small entrance, which will be sufficient for winter.
It's frustrating to not be able to peek in the observation windows, but hopefully these precautions will make survival a possibility. Now I need to be patient, wait and watch.