The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting colder. Soon the temperature both day and night will be below 10 Celsius and the honeybees will retreat to their hive for the winter months. The worker bees will form a cluster around the queen, keeping her warm and fed. The hive now only contains female bees as all the drones have been evicted from the hive. The bees will not be able to collect any more nectar until spring, so the stores they have worked hard all summer to gather must be enough to keep the hive alive.
As the beekeeper, it is your job to make sure that your hive is equipped to survive the winter. A Manzer Top Bar Hive should have at least five full bars of capped honey for the bees to eat over the winter. Weekly checks of your hive are just as important in fall as they are in the summer.
If your hive was robbed or your honeybees just could not collect enough nectar and you notice this early enough, then you will be able to help your bees out by sugar feeding them. All of our hives come with a sugar syrup feeder and a sugar cake feeder. In the fall, fill the mason jar feeder with a solution of 1 cup of sugar to 1 cup of warm water. Let it cool and then place the feeder in the hive behind the follower board. Remove the cork so that your bees can gain access to the feeder. Using the inspection window, check daily to see if they have emptied the jar and refill when necessary. If, by the time the hive is ready to be shut down for winter and you are worried that the bees still do not have enough honey then use the sugar cake feeder. Make a paste with sugar and water, fill the feeder and let it harden. Place this in the hive at the end of the honey, which is next to the follower board.
The top bars in your hive will either be empty or have comb on them filled with brood or food. The order that these bars should be for the winter are as follows starting at the entrance:
If you have not organized your hive in this manner, it must be done soon, as the bees need to seal the cracks in the top bars with propolis for the winter. Pick a nice, sunny day when the temperature is 15 degrees Celsius or more. There are still a few of those days left.
If you flipped your screened bottom board around due to robbing, you must now flip it back around. Don’t worry about the gaps, the honeybees will fill these with propolis. If the screened board is on the wrong way, the entire screen will be exposed to the elements and the bees will not be able to seal it up.
The above photo shows the correct positioning of the screened bottom board for winter. The spacers are between the bottom of the hive and the screened board. The gap can be filled with propolis by the bees. The screen itself is sealed by the bottom board.
The above photo shows a flipped screened bottom board to prevent robbing. Robber bees cannot gain access to the hive, but in this position the entire screen is exposed to the elements. This is the incorrect position for winter as the bees cannot get past the screen to fill in the gaps.
To finish up closing the hive you will need to close all the entrances except one and close all of the top vents and assure that the lid of the hive is closed tightly. Lastly, if your hive is not protected from the north wind by trees or a building, you will need to place something behind the hive. You can use straw/hay bales, fencing, or you can move the hive to a more sheltered spot. Remember, you can only move your hive three feet at a time or the bees will not be able to find their way back to the hive.