Over the last few weeks, Mark has been busy winterizing the hives. It’s quite a process to get the bees ready for the winter. This year, since we don't have any pigs at the moment we’ve decided to store the hives in our movable pig shelters. This will keep the hives out of the wind and nasty weather which should help with temperature regulation inside the hive. The first feat was moving the hives from all over the farm into the tunnels. Once the hives were on pallets in the tunnels they were ready to be winterized. Mark adds a thin box to the top of the hive. He calls this a winter rim or Vivaldi Box. It has an entrance for the bees to come in and out of, a vent to let moisture out as well as room for food and insulation. Mark uses burlap to insulate the top of the hive as it naturally absorbs well and is easy to remove and dry out. The final step is to slide on an insulated cover over the outside of the hive. It’s like a sleeping bag. This adds an extra layer of protection to the hive.
There is a lot of work that goes on inside the beehive in the winter. The bees do not hibernate, they are active all winter long. The bees’ one and only job all winter is to keep the queen alive. They do this by forming a large cluster around the queen. During the cold days and nights, the bees vibrate their bodies to generate heat. This strategy works so well they can boost the temperature inside the hive into the high twenties around the queen. When the bees get tired, they crawl toward the centre of the cluster and are replaced by new bees. The cluster moves around the hive, eating the honey they produced in the summer season. In our hives, at least 80 lbs of honey is left for the bees to sustain themselves through the winter. That’s the size of a small human!
With any luck, the bees will enjoy their winter break and emerge in the spring ready for bee business!