For those who keep bees in cooler climates, it is very important to take steps to winterize the beehive in order to protect your investment. One of the most important steps in doing this is to ensure that the hive is well insulated.
This may seem like a very basic, if unnecessary, question. However, there are actually several good answers to the question. First, you want to insulate your hive to protect the bees from extreme temperatures.
A second reason for insulating the hive is to increase spring production of honey. With proper insulation, the bees will spend less energy keeping warm. This means that more energy is channeled into honey production.
A final reason for proper insulation is to promote earlier brooding. This will lead to an increase in worker bees available in the spring to collect nectar. This, again, will lead to higher honey production.
When to Insulate?
The earlier your area begins to cool off in the fall, the earlier you will want to insulate your hive. In climates where it generally snows in the winter, the latest you would want to insulate the hive is Labor Day. In warmer climates, mid-fall is usually a good time for insulating, as the feeding season for the bees has usually been completed.
How to Insulate?
You can insulate your hive using materials from your local home improvement store. For those living in more temperate climates, one way to insulate is by simply wrapping the hive in black roofer’s paper.
Another option is the use of fiberglass insulation encased in heavy black plastic. Cut rolls of fiberglass insulation into proper lengths and then seal them in heavy black plastic. Make sure the R-factor of the insulation is at least an R-4 and that the black plastic is UV resistant.
There are also pre-made hive insulation products available through websites and other suppliers of beekeeping equipment. When considering these products, pay attention to the R-factor of the insulating material and the UV-stability of the outer cover.
Additionally, here are some other factors to consider when winterizing:
• Leave bees enough honey to make it through the winter.
• Reduce the size of the hive entrance to protect from winter winds.
• Ensure that hive exits are not blocked by insulation.
Properly winterizing your hives can protect your investment and increase your honey crop for years to come.