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538 River Rd, Ottawa, Ontario

  • Marianne Gee

Autumn in the Beehive


I'm sorry to say it...but the days are getting shorter, the temperatures cooler, and the leaves are giving us a colourful showy farewell. The honeybees know it too and are preparing for winter. Here's what happens inside the hive.

During the fall, the queen slows down laying eggs and will soon stop completely. The worker bees born at this time of the year will live through the winter, longer than summertime bees who only live about 6 weeks. The bees also pack the hive with honey. Going into winter, a double brood-chamber hive should weight about 100 lbs - the honey will be eaten by the bees all winter.

Fall is not an easy time for the drones (male honeybees - shown above). The drones are swiftly evicted by the female worker bees. Drone honeybees don't do anything in the beehive except mate with virgin queen's in the spring and summer. From the colony's perspective there is no need for the drones to live through the winter since they would eat too much honey and the queen can lay new drones in the spring. At the entrance of the hive, you will see the female worker bees grabbing the drones by the legs and kicking them to the curb. In the bee world, it's tough being a guy!

In November, we will wrap the hives for winter. There are many ways to do this and this is one area where if you ask 10 beekeepers how they winterize, you will get 11 answers. We keep things pretty simple: we insulate the inner cover to prevent condensation and wrap the beehive with black felt paper. Each hive also will have an upper entrance, that allows air circulation and a way for the bees to fly out in March if their bottom entrance is blocked

And then comes the hardest part of the year for a beekeeper...waiting for spring.