A major challenge to the beekeeper is helping the bees survive winter weather. Starvation, cold, dampness, mites and nosema (bee dysentery) all make winter survival within the hive difficult.
Sarah, Lindsay and MaryLou getting bee supplies ready
Most commonly, bees are overwintered in 2 deep boxes full of bees, pollen and honey. About 80-90 pounds of honey per hive insures an adequate winter food supply.
insulation wrapped hives
I wrapped my hives in a blanket of insulation. This is the first time I have insulated hives. Insulating hives to conserve heat is controversial. The concern is that decreased circulation with insulation will cause an increase in humidity inside the hives. The increased humidity results in condensation forming and cold water dripping on the bees.
Linsay and I inspected the hives on a warm day in mid February. Two of the hives were very damp with mildew present. Both of the damp hives had a large number of dead bees. I will probably not insulate the hives next winter!
opening up and examining the hives
The insulation was removed. The 2 hives which had a large number of dead bees were combined into one hive. In my experience, the reduced bee population would have resulted in the death of both hives. Combining the hives at this time may improve the chances of one hive being large enough to survive the remaining Winter and Spring.
bees with their queen
The third hive was doing well with a large bee population and no mildew. All hives had adequate honey stores available. I will wait for warmer Spring weather to arrive before opening the hives for inspection again.