While humans are digging through our closets to locate gloves and hats in anticipation of the cold days ahead, the bees are preparing for spring.
Inside the hive the bees are raising the temperature and preparing the brood chamber for the queen to resume laying. Once the hive temperature is about 95⁰, the queen will begin laying with the hope of having a full hive of bees in the spring. This happens usually early to mid-January in the southern part of the US.
The bees know how to raise the temperature in the hive. While we humans would like to cover them up to keep the cold out, the bees already have a plan to keep the hive warm. If the hives are in a windy area, a wind break may help, but completely enclosing them is a nice cozy wrap is not necessary. Not only is not necessary, but it could also cause increased condensation which will drip water on the bees. Once the bees get wet, they can freeze. The old saying “wet bees are dead bees” should be a reminder that we are only beekeepers, they know their needs better than us.
In the far northern US, where winters can linger on for months, some beekeepers do wrap their hives. If wrapping the hives is something a beekeeper feels is necessary, it is important to remember a few things. First, the air must still be able to circulate through the hive to prevent condensation. This can be achieved by placing a penny on each corner of the inner cover and leave a small opening on the entrance reducer. (Don’t cover the lid) Second, place an empty honey super above the inner cover then lay wood shavings, burlap, or other moisture absorbing material in the super. Again, this is something beeks in the far northern parts of the USA may want to consider. Here is the south, it is not necessary even on sub-freezing days.
Making sure the bees have access to feed is more important than keeping the hive warm. They will keep the hive warm, but they will use a good deal of energy to do so. That means they will need extra feed. A bag of sugar or a sugar block will give them the extra food they need to keep the hive at the proper temperature.
So, as we humans are looking to keep warm in the colder weather, the bees are busy caring for the hive all while they are planning to have a large population in order to take advance of the soon-to-be-here honey flow.