Ready for the cold?

Podcasts continue to grow in popularity. People are spending about two hours each day following the wise musings of their favourite word-weavers. I heard that Joe Rogan signed with Spotify for $100,000,000 (though he’s locked in for ten years).

I rarely listen to Joe Rogan. He’s OK, I guess, but he doesn’t talk about bees. (I mostly listen to beecasts.) One of my favourites is PolliNation, hosted by ex-Calgarian Dr Andony Melathopoulos. Andony is one of the best bee presenters you’ll ever have a chance to meet. He works at Oregon State University and his podcast originates there.

You can catch Episode #156 of Pollination on your podcast provider’s app. This episode, Preparing hives for winter,  is another great one. Andony meets Dr. Shelley Hoover in one of her research apiaries. Shelley has worked for Alberta Agriculture, been president of the Entomological Society of America, and is now the Apiculture and Pollination Scientist in the Department of Research and Innovation at the University of Lethbridge, in southern Alberta. Her research focuses on honey bee health, breeding, management, pest management, and nutrition, as well as canola pollination. She knows a lot about honey bees.

Shelley Hoover and Andony Melathopoulos, in Lethbridge, Alberta, in 2016.
I took this photo when they were both working at the agriculture research station.

This week’s PolliNation podcast covers wintering from a northern prairie perspective. Shelley Hoover manages 95 hives across the border from Montana. Don’t miss this podcast. Among the topics:

Starvation is still a common cause of over-wintering colony death. (Especially among hobby urban beekeepers, where it ranks as the leading cause of honey bee mortality.)

Shelley gives her bees 20 litres (5 gallons)  of 2:1  sugar syrup in the fall. At over 25 kg (60 pounds), that’s a lot. Feeding finishes by early October.

The bees are fed heavily in the fall so they don’t have to be fed in the spring. This reduces the chance of accidentally getting sugar into honey supers. Also, fall feeding is easier – it’s warmer and colonies have larger populations, so the feed is stored quickly.

She combines weak hives that would die over winter.  All wintering hives have at least  two deeps full of bees.

Dr. Hoover recognizes the importance of ventilation. Hives have multiple entrances, including upper ones. The alternative is, she says, wet dead bees.

Hives are wrapped with insulating material by mid-October and unwrapped in April or May.

Finally, listen to the podcast to find out why Shelley never drives next to a potato chip truck on Alberta highways.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
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3 Responses to Ready for the cold?

  1. Maria says:

    Here in Orange County, in SoCal it is still hot especially in the Inland Empire.
    Last year when it was 115 degrees 15 hives died from the heat. I looked at all the frames and it was obvious from a heat death. They look frozen in place and beeswax was completely melted.
    Both farms were 100 yards from last years Holy Jim Fire and Prado Dam fire.

    This year we used easy ups for the extreme heat of late afternoon and we only lost 2 from heat death. We are( having another heatwave this week. So far no fires nearby.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ron Miksha says:

      Thank you, Maria. I live in Canada, and forget that there is another side to temperature!

      You were so lucky to miss those fires, but I’m sorry for your lost hives from over-heating. It sounds like you have partly solved the problem. Would it work to add an empty super (rim only, no frames) to the top of the hive and stuff insulation in it? And maybe also set a slowly (very slowly) dripping picnic water thermos also inside that rim?


  2. Maria says:

    That helps plus I place multiple top boards.
    I place extra pieces of plywood leaning on front or back.
    Some top boards have foam insulation the only issue with that is mice make a little nest in it from the the warmth of hive.

    I try several ways to help my bees out.
    I am just a hobbyist beekeeper, and thank goodness for these girls for the honey they help me pay my Medicare co payments


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