Is my hive ready for winter?
This is a very simple question, but the answer is long and complicated. I have prepared a small checklist that can help you evaluate your hives.
- Stores. You should be able to determine this without needing to open the hive. Just lift the back side of the hive. The rule of thumb is at least 150 pounds for a double deep or 70 pounds for a single.
- Good population. Here are pictures of one of my August nucs and one of my singles.
I took those earlier today, Sept 21, 2013 at 5 pm. It was sunny, but cool, 61F. You should be able to see "seams" of 2 rows of bees between the majority of your frames with possible exception of the 2 outer ones. My camera does not do very nice close-up pictures, but you should be able to see the "seams" in the nuc picture and in the middle of the single picture. The "seams" of bees are not very visible between the rest of the frames in my single picture, but they are there. At this point, if I am happy with the weight of the hive and the population, I'll close it up and call it good. Why?
- I don't want to disturb the propolis seals that the bees have created between the boxes to help them insulate the hive
- I don't want to break any bridge or cross comb that is filled with honey and I don't want to start a robbing session.
- Most importantly, I don't want to chance damaging the queen.
- If I decide that either the weight or the population are not satisfactory, I will inspect the hive further. For the following pictures, I opened 1 of my weakest nucs. Here is how it looked under the inner cover:
The queen is on this frame - here is a close-up. Can you spot her?
She is a little bit above the center of the picture. This round of brood is just starting to emerge and the empty slots are already filled with eggs. Here is the second frame - just a little spot of brood emerging and the bees are quickly filling the empties with stores and capping.
The third frame is also stores, although they are not capped:
The last frame was just empty comb. This nuc is almost there as far as winter prep goes. We still have between 4 and 6 weeks of nice weather with daily temperature above 50F. They could raise at least another round of brood. Of course, they will need feeding.