Just in case anyone wonders if I’ve given this up yet, the answer is no.
It’s just that there really isn’t much for a small scale beekeeper to do over the winter. You pretty much close up the hives (not completely, I leave one entrance open), put a little insulation under the roofs, and sit back and hope they survive the winter. Admittedly, we haven’t had much of a winter here. It has been unseasonably warm and almost no snow. Now, in the middle of February we are having a cold snap and there is something of a winter storm on the way, but over all this has been the winter that wasn’t. On several of the warm days we’ve had I’ve seen the bees flying. The original hive always seems to have a lot of activity going on. The second hive seems a bit more lethargic. That may have to do with location. The first hive gets more sunlight, so it warms up earlier and stays warm longer. I put some sugar in top feeders for both hives in the fall. When I did this in the first hive they ate a lot of it. Then I refilled it for the first hive, and added a feeder to the second hive, and it doesn’t appear that either of them touched the sugar after that. I eventually removed the top feeder form the second hive because it interfered with how the roof fit. Last week it was warm enough for the bees to be active for several days in a row so I put out a jar of sugar syrup for them, but neither hive showed any interest. I did witness them returning the hive with thick clumps of pollen on their legs, so they were visiting some kind of blooming plant somewhere, though I have no idea what was blooming in the middle of January. The weather has been so mild that I’ve seen several plants begin to bud and sprout, but hadn’t seen anything in full bloom yet.
So that is where things are. Both hives are still alive so far. We are having a bit of cold weather now, but it has generally been dry which seems to be the most important factor as bees can generally deal with the cold as long as they don’t get wet. Apparently Small hive Beetle eggs don’t survive low humidity conditions either, so I’m hoping maybe the long dry spell over winter will have done them in, but that’s probably too much to ask for. Hopefully they will make it the next month until spring hits. I’m hoping the warm weather followed by this hard freeze hasn’t wiped out too many of the early blooming plants and we will have good spring growth to feed them.
I considered the possibility of ordering another package of bees in case neither of my hives survived the winter, but I decided I didn’t have the extra money to spend. Also, I don’t know that I really have a good place to put a third hive, so if both hives survived then I had a bunch of bees that would need a home. I am planning on building another hive, and a couple of small bait hives or nucs just in case I come up with more bees or an opportunity to place a hive somewhere.
Now I’m just awaiting spring when I can do a more thorough check on the health of the hives and hopefully watch them thrive and grow well into the fall.