Bee Keeping here I come!


Beekeeping is a fun hobby. If you are quick to give up it probably isn’t for you as there are many reasons your bees might not make it through winter.
My neighbor 2 houses down had 5 hives 2 years ago. Brand new beekeeper. Mites took control and killed all 5 hives over winter. They simply gave up. Had I of known they had bees I would have offered to help and probably could have saved them. It’s not uncommon to lose bees over winter. I recommend some type of control for mites and hive beetles.
2 hives minimum to start. If worse comes to worse you can pull resources from the other hive, make splits to increase number of hives, etc. I know someone that went from 25 hives to over 150 by seasons end from just splits. They could have had more, but couldn’t build boxes fast enough.

It’s a big cost savings if you can build your own boxes. Time is money too. If you don’t have the time to build them you might opt for some pre built boxes for an added expense. It’s a big bonus if you have a spouse or friend that can help.


I added a light insulation cover and some candy using my queen excluder, as well as drilled a front hole. We have had more winter days with really high winds 30 MPH+ than I can recall. I have seen some bees come and go during unusually warm days. I added a mouse guard, but the bees that die are more difficult for the other bees to push out. I am trying to keep the area open. The proof will be in the pudding when I open up. This is my first winter and my fingers are crossed. At what temp can the hive be checked for the first time?


If you can wait for a day in the fifties where it is not windy that would be the time to do the work. I try to do as little as possible in the winter and mainly just check weight (for how much honey) and humidity. Why do you have a queen excluder in the winter (or ever really?) they need to be able to move easily in a cluster up and down through the hive and easily get to there honey. I love the Candy as it can absorb humidity and if they need stores its available. I have talked about the quilt box as being neccessary and they have plans on them for langstroth and other hives. I think the “Organic felt paper” makes a good winter wrap where we want heat from the sun or use tyvek for areas where you don’t want the added heat from the sun. These seem to do a great job at stopping windbreak and still decreasing condensation.

In general while its fun for us to check on them they really dont need things up in there colonies. Im really happy i got windows and have put in some windows in the hives (bought some premades with windows and added the non window ones i made myself) so i can check on both hives. I also heavily agree with what was said up there about multiple hives being much better than one and will help you with insect stewardship (are they all responding the same way? is one about to swarm? once you can read there physical behaviour it helps seeing if all the hives are responding the same way).


If you have extra money to burn you could get brood minder to monitor your hive. Although it’s fairly expensive to have it on more than a few hives. If you leave the hives with sufficient stores you shouldn’t need to open it every month during winter. I put a few pounds of dry sugar on top of newspaper in the hive. If they eat through the honey stores the sugar will get them almost all the way through. I might open 2 months later to refill sugar. As you get more experience you will get a better feel of how much stores are in the hive and how long they last.


You can tip it to get a idea of the weight and how much honey stores are left. Consider 20ish pounds zero honey and aim to have 40lb hives by springtime (Here we would start around 80-100lbs for going into winter).

My entrance is much smaller and i use wood shims to create this sort of effect which still allows the bees to clean up but stops mice from being able to get in during cold spells when they would be unable to defend themselves. I think these bottomless ones are much easier for the bees to work with.


Thanks Richard for all the info. I used the queen excluder just as a support on which I placed the candy. I think they had pretty good stores, but as you said, I thought it would be helpful for a humidity check. I had two hives, but some problems with the second queen. Expect it to be empty when I check. I need to read up on quilt box. I have discovered a nearby mentor and source for nucs, so I am really happy about that!


And yes my mouse guard is home grown from hardware cloth. A couple attachment points. I like the mouse guard idea and appreciate the link. Zowie on the weight of full hives. I had back surgery about six months ago and honestly am glad that I did not go with deeps. I just cant pick them up. Thanks so much to all for all the great info and personal experience!


Some people buy scales from thrift stores and put it under each hive to get a idea of the weight. I think manageable is the best size!


You are so right. It doesn’t take long to accumulate hives especially when you start doing lots of splits.
I had not thought of using an actual scale. Those can usually be picked up cheap at thrift stores or garage sales.
I’m not sure I could handle more than a dozen hives being I work a full time job. Trying to get in all those hives before they each swarm or have other things needing tended to. More power to ya if you can manage that many or more.


saw someone recommend using 2x10s to make hive bodies, use 9 frames instead of 10, for added insulation value in northern climates, doesn’t seem like a bad idea…


I have pretty good luck wintering mine in 5 frame nucs. Over 90% success and our coldest day was -28F last year. 10s are just too hard on my back. I prefer 8’s. I’m not a body builder like that david from barnyard bees.


@RichardRoundTree I had a set of platform scales that I kept a hive on year round. The scales were a valuable tool for managing honeybees. The most important information was following the weight change as the honey flow started and seeing minor flows during the summer. I would often see 2-4 lb changes from one day to another. This information allows you to have peak workers during peak availability of nectar to be gathered. On the flip side it also allowed you to keep up with stored food during the winter so they don’t starve. Leaving enough food for winter allows peace of mind and almost never losing a hive from winter starvation. The scale is a valuable tool.


Here is a video about the Waggle Dance that Chikn referred to in an earlier post.Bees are


do you think they are actually smart or is this instinctual behaviour?


Bees are still only bugs. Each individual has what any other insect has for brains, not a lot. But when you combine 60K brains then I think a super organism brain may have some intellect.


Bees 100% have communal intelligence and also can sense you and your animals from other humans or animals


Yesterday my bees came out for a ‘cleansing flight’. It was only 2C I thought it was too cold but I guess when you gotta go---------. Bee poo all over the place, many bees didn’t make it back, either they came out to die or it was too cold to make it back. But now the cluster is back in the wall still humming and no one was out today even though it was warmer. I hope they have enough honey stores there is no way to feed them within the wall.


so a local beek that doesn’t use excluders or fume boards has been letting me collect the extra bees he ends up with around his honey house…
this is my first year with bees and i started out with 1 package this spring and now I’m up to 18 hives, which is a bit crazy and overwhelming but if i don’t take the extra bees he just kills them off so i keep grabbing them.
I’ve been putting bunches of bees in hives and if they don’t have and egg/larva activity in a week i throw in a frame with capped brood and eggs from another queenright hive. sometimes this works and they make a queen, but not always.
anyway I’m kinda worried about winter, I’m in nd and it’s not ideal for keeping bees outside but i don’t have indoor space for them. any tips or tricks from people with experience?
here are a few pics of rescue bees…


It seems like you are kicking ass.

cuz you are in north dakota i would put it in a outbuilding that gets some solar heat if possible or use a heater to keep it from going -25f-negative30f in there. If it gets some solar heat but not huge temp swings it will be great. Make sure once a month it warms up to 60f for a few hours or so they can fly out and poop they will be much healthier.

Its wind and condensation that kills bees. You can wrap your hives in organic felt black tar paper but you should buy it and let it offgas for a few months before wrapping. It helps them to be in a spot with morning sun and as little wind as possible. However with your wind load maybe just focusing on getting them some form of 3 sided housing would help?

Do you have a quilt box? Those help a lot to let the bees regulate their own temperature and humidity.


Congratulations on fingering out how to rapidly expand your number of hives. My area is much warmer than yours so you can get better overwintering advice from local beekeepers who knows how to deal with your colder weather. One important thing to remember regardless of location is to determine how much honey needs to be left on the hive so they don’t starve during the spring increase in population. When I first saw the clusters of bees on the building I though they were what we term swarms with a queen but now I’m not sure. Are the bees swarms or are they assembling for another reason?