I was still traveling (unexpectedly) on Saturday and missed that warm, sunny window of opportunity to put the bees to bed for the winter, but that’s what happens to Beekeepers with Day Jobs. I’m not at all sure I could make a living wage by keeping bees, so it all evens out but still – it was so hard to spend Saturday looking out at the warm autumn landscape from an Amtrak car en route to Portland.
Sunday was cooler and blowing a steady 15 – 20 mph out of the NW, but we managed. I took the Styrofoam feeder boxes off the top of the hives and put a layer of newspaper right on top of the frames. The newsprint does a great job of soaking up and holding moisture from condensation in the hive. I keep a top entrance going all winter (until the bees close it themselves with wax and propolis) so the paper is retracted just a bit under the hole to allow easy access to the comb. The bees will chew some of this paper away and I’ll replace it with a big piece of hard candy on some warm day during the February thaw.
Then the top board goes on and the insulated hive wrap is taped up around it, followed by more newspaper. I smoke the hives and wear a full suit for this chore because the bees don’t like change in general and the sound of duct tape ripping off the roll in particular.
An active colony will have built comb all the way up to the feeder over the course of the summer. These were empty of sugar syrup, but drain them if you have to and tip them upside down so the bees can rescue any honey from the scrap comb.
Fortunately temps were in the 60’s on Sunday and the field bees were still bringing in bright orange pollen from some hidden stand of asters. Tonight it’s raining hard and 45, but I think the hives are set for their long sleep until I check on them during the spring thaw.