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The Beehive: Winter in Minnesota

By Brett Kent / For the Enterprise

Welcome back to the Beehive.

It has been so long since I have written a column, and there is so much to tell you folks. So, let me start by saying this winter has been ridiculously cold. Ok, so how does this affect the bees? I will remind you folks that Brenda and I decided to keep our bees here, in and around Hubbard County for the winter season.

Our bees are outside, where we winterized the hives by leaving them with 3 deep-boxes high, with an upper entrance, and an empty hive box on top with 6 inches of insulation in it.

This will act as a barrier, very similar to the attic in your house. The idea is to have better ventilation with the upper entrance, and the insulation should help reduce the condensation buildup on the inner cover.

If you remember from past columns, the bees can withstand very cold temperatures, but their Achilles heel is their inability to survive when the condensation builds up on the inner cover and drips on the cluster of bees.

Also, remember that the bees are very active in the hive boxes throughout the winter, as they are gathered in a cluster, keeping warm. As the bees on the outside of the cluster become cold, they move to the inside of the cluster and the warm bees on the inside of the cluster, move to the outside of the cluster.

The cluster of bees moves as one unit, throughout the hive box eating honey along the way, which gives them the energy to create heat and stay warm. Lastly, remember that the bees will not go to the bathroom while inside the hive box. The bees will hold it for months if they have to, but you can bet that on the first 30 degree day, they will be out, conducting their cleansing flights, which is a nice way to say relieving themselves. My advice for the first 30 degree day would be, do not stand in front of the hive with a white coat on. Lol!

Ok, so how are our bees doing? I will say that there have been two 30 degree days this January, and the bees have been out in earnest. It is hard to tell how the hives are doing, without opening them up, but it seems that most of the hives are alive, and coping with the crazy cold weather. We will see how they did in March.

Now, being that the bees stayed north, Brenda decided the family needed to head south. So we packed up our grown-up family and headed to Hawaii for a week.

 We probably looked like the Clampetts when we were getting off the plane in Honolulu, with our long underwear on. The first morning we went for a walk by the hotel garden, and I spotted a honey bee. 

Now I never thought about being a honey bee in Hawaii, but oh man, I hope they don’t b-mail my bees and tell them about the 70 degree days and flowers year round. These bees have it made. The wheels started turning and I had to find a local beekeeper to talk with. So we went to the Honolulu farmers market. There I talked with a couple of local beekeepers. It turns out that there are some advantages to year round honey production, and there are also some real drawbacks. Some of the problems the local beekeepers face are heavy infestations of small hive beetles, and more aggressive mite populations.

I will not wait so long to write next time. Remember, if I do, it is probably Brenda’s fault. Thanks again for your interest.