The October 17th Beekeeping Webinar put on by author Kim Flottum and Ohio State University was a good overall reminder of hive dynamics in winter and how we can help our bees survive.
The major problems for honey bees in winter are starvation, varroa and poor ventilation. Cold condensation created by heat generated by the bee cluster contacting the cold inner cover will drip on the bees. In cold climates wet bees are dead bees. Possible solutions are insulation between the inner cover and outer cover, a moisture quilt or an Insulated Moisture Quilt.
Wintering your bees is like real estate value in that the most important consideration is location (location, location, location). Location dictates the methods you will use to protect your bees from the elements. Windbreaks are essential in some areas where there are cold, winter winds. In winter we have a predominant, strong, low pressure, southeast weather pattern that brings with it fairly constant cold, wet winds.
Wrapping is also very helpful at reducing heat loss. Roofing paper is the favourite wrapping material (black absorbs heat from the sun) making sure to leave an upper hole for ventilation. Some beekeepers insulate not only the top of their hives but the body as well, making sure once again to leave the upper ventilation hole open for air circulation.
Other considerations are what type of bee you have. Carnies and Russians (particularly Russians) winter smaller clusters, eat less, produce less winter brood and generally winter better than their southern Italian cousins (The Best Bee Type). However, most bees are a hybrid of various types of bees.
A great concern when wintering bees is starvation and to prevent this beekeepers must simply make sure they leave adequate frames of honey for thier bees. Once again this is location dependent and for us is about 65-75 lbs or 10 deep frames. For information on feeding bees go to Feeding Bees in Winter .
To view this webinar go to the "Getting your hives ready for winter" with Kim Flottum or