How to overwinter your Flow Hive in extremely cold climates
There are a number of factors to consider when overwintering a beehive in extremely cold climates, which may require some specific fine-tuning.
This blog is created as guide, however, it’s extremely important to consult with local beekeepers as to common practice for overwintering bees in your local area.
Helping your bees to survive the winter (and hopefully come into spring thriving), can be a challenge as bee colony losses can be quite high in very cold climates. This is why it’s so important to ensure you undertake the right preparations or precautions, both before the temperature begins to drop, as well as during the depths of winter.
Pictured: Steven's over-wintering setup. Utah, USA.
The first step required will be to pack-down your hive for overwintering. This generally means reducing the hive down to only its brood box(es).
To remove the Flow Super:
- Harvest all remaining honey.
- Depending on what local beekeepers recommend, you may want to consider feeding this last harvest (especially if the honey was largely uncapped) back to your bees during the depths of winter.
- Let the bees uncap and clean up any remaining honey. Depending on how urgently the bees need to use the frame will dictate how long this will take. Sometimes it can be hours, and other times it can take days.
- Remove the whole Flow Super.
- If the Flow Frames are still a little sticky, you may want to consider cleaning them before storing them in a dark, sealed space over winter. Read more on how to clean Flow Frames on our FAQ here.
Once your hive is down to just it’s brood box(es), you may then want to consider undertaking the following factors to improve chances of a successful overwintering for your colony. These include, but are not limited to;
Entrance reduction and placement
Reducing the entrance is important too, for both ventilation reasons, and also for protecting the hive.
Most beekeepers will reduce the entrance when they begin feeding their hive with supplementary food, however you may need to do this before.
As colony numbers start to decrease, the hive can become more susceptible to robbing by other bees. You may want to consider decreasing the entrance of your hive – this can assist the guard bees in protecting the hive from robbing. You can buy special entrance reducers from a beekeeping supply store, or just use pieces of wood, some straw or any other suitable material.
Here is one example of how to create your own entrance reducer:
Some beekeepers strongly recommend creating a top-entrance for ventilation, or if you are prone to deep snow which may block the entrance during winter.
You may like to search on our Community Forum for more suggestions for both entrance reduction and creating a top-entrance – there has been a lot of discussion about both these topics.
Some beekeepers choose to move their bees to a styrofoam hive (or a hive made from insulating materials), while others wrap solar blankets (which passively warm the hive from the heat of the sun) or insulating material around the outside of the hive.
Pictured: Victor's insulated Flow Hives in Michigan, USA.
In addition to insulating the body of the hive, it can be important to insulate the roof cavity of a hive, as heat can be lost from the top.
Some ideas for insulating a Flow Hive peaked roof are;
- Stuffing the cavity with an insulating material, such as straw, or an old woollen blanket, or thick sawdust/wood chips, or dry leaves/other organic material, and making sure to seal this area with some plywood so no pests or diseases can make this their home.
- Creating a solar blanket on top of the roof.