Do Honeybees Hibernate?

One of the most frequently asked questions about Five Feline Farm is about the honeybees. This year has been a start over year. We presently have two thriving hives and are determined to keep these colonies alive if at all possible. Our goal is to avoid the tragedy we experienced last year in losing colonies and increase the number of colonies in the spring.

We did harvest a very small amount of honey this year from one colony. Although the bees did produce a fair amount of honey, we made the decision to prioritze the health of the bees and leave this additional honey for their winter food supply. This will increase their likelihood of making it through the forecasted harsh winter and is more important than any profit potential we might realize by removing more honey.

What do honeybees do in the winter?

This is a common question. People often assume that honeybees hibernate in the winter. The reality is that honeybees do not hibernate, they cluster.

When temperatures drop, the colony huddles together in a ball with the queen and her attendants in the middle. The bees on the outer edge form an insulating layer. The inner layers of bees vibrate their abdominal muscles to generate heat for warmth. Periodically, one of the inner bees will move to the outer layer and push her cold sister into the middle of the ball to allow her time to warm up.

The bees also pass food from one to the other and to the queen. The entire cluster moves throughout the hive over the winter to where the honey reserves are stored. It is important for the beekeeper to leave enough honey for the bees. Yes, we can and do supplement with dry granulated sugar as needed to ensure they have plenty to eat before the spring nectar flow begins.

If all goes as planned, our colonies will overwinter.

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Winter Preppers

Yes we are prepping.

Not the kind of long term stockpiling that most people think of as prepping. Not building bunkers anticipating a nuclear holocaust.

We are prepping for winter.

There are things that you must consider living in the country. Each year we learn another lesson. We may or may not have power. The road to town may be impassable. So, we need to be prepared. That’s what prepping is after all. A state of preparedness for whatever life or the elements may throw at you.

Photo Nov 16, 2 38 33 PM

Winter 2015 Prep List

1. Power

At Five Feline Farm we have upgraded a few things to help us through the winter. First and foremost was installing a whole house generator. Winter storms taught us that power is a critical element. It has been frightfully cold when the power has been out for hours or days at a time.

We have no plans to go off grid, but we do now have a back up plan for power outages. Even though the generator and 500 gallon propane tank should keep things fully functional for a week, we will still go into conservation mode. A few lights. The refrigerator and freezers. Water heater. Lower the thermostat. Doing all of this will extend the tank of propane for as long as possible. The supplier states they can get us a refill within two days of calling, but if the road is drifted shut, that may be an optimistic estimate.

2. Food

Summer’s bounty plus a few items from the store are stocked. The pantry is loaded with canned goods. The freezers are packed with meat and vegetables. We may need to get creative with meals, but we could easily manage a month or more of keeping body and soul united.

3. Outside Chores

Set up the Christmas decorations. Yes, you read correctly. It is much nicer to set up the outside decorations in early November before the weather gets brutal. There is no need to turn everything on, but at least it is ready at the flip of a switch. This isn’t rushing the season. It is being planful.

Winterize the camper. Bring in the pond pumps. Drain the water hoses. Mow down the garden. Put the snowplow on the Mule. These are just a few of the outside tasks that need to be completed before a freeze.

At this writing, the first flakes of winter snow are falling. It is good to have the winter prepping completed. We can sit back and enjoy the beauty of winter without worry.

What winter prepping have you done? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

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