Charlie's monthly beekeeping calendar

Your monthly guide of beekeeping tips for you and your hives

November 10, 2021

To all SBA members,

1. Hopefully, everyone has finished feeding their bees and has taken off the hive feeders. At this time you should be installing your entrance reducers and mouse guards. On November 5, I finished up preparing my hives for winter by installing my home made combination mouse guards and entrance reducers and securing all of my hives with ratchet straps so the wind will not blow the hives over or the top covers off. I also used old carpet to cover up the hives that are exposed to the wind and are not protected by a building or natural windbreak.

Varroa Mite Treatment
What are you going to do in November?

In late November and December, I will be treating twice a month with oxalic acid vapor while the hives are broodless to get the highest kill percentage rate that I can if the weather and temperatures are right.

1. Install entrance reducers on your hives.
2. Install mouse guards on your hives.
3. Make sure you have removed all queen excluders.
4. Make sure you condense your hives down and remove any unused supers.
5. Make sure you have removed all bee escape boards if you use them.
6. Make sure your hives have good top ventilation through the winter to reduce condensation in the hives.
7. Secure all your hives with ratchet straps so the wind will not blow the hives over or the top cover off.
8. Consider closing up your screen bottom boards (some beekeepers do, some don't).
9. Consider wrapping your hives or using a windbreak.

Mouse Guards

There are several types of mouse guards you can use and different ways to install them on your hives. You can buy them or make your own. I have seen store bought mouse guards that are right angled sheet metal with holes drilled in them so the bees can go though the holes. There are also ones made of flat sheet metal with slots cut out just wide enough so the bees can pass through. These are attached with screws.

Here are two homemade mouse guards you can make on the cheap using half inch hardware cloth (screening) or a 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch wooden entrance reducer with slots cut into it.

Get half inch hardware cloth from your local hardware store, and cut off a 4 inch wide piece that is the length of the hive opening. Fold it in half lengthwise to form an elongated V shape. Push the folded edge (the pointy side of the V) into the entrance. When the V tries to spring open, it will wedge itself in place.

I use a 3/4 inch by 3/4 inch wooden entrance reducer with slots cut into it. To make one, take a 3/4 inch thick pine board and cut a 3/4 inch strip off the long side of the board. Cut off a piece of the strip the exact length of the hive opening so it will fit in there snugly. Mark where to cut five 1/2 inch wide x 3/8 inch high slots near the center of the entrance reducer. I use a radial arm saw or a table saw and cut the slots with a dado blade set to these dimensions. If you don't have a dado blade, use the single blade on your table saw and make several cuts by moving the saw fence over to achieve the correct width slot. I attach two 2 inch drywall screws to the front of the mouse guard, one on either side about 1 1/2 inches from the ends, to serve as handles when I need to pull it back out.

Consider wrapping your hives or using a windbreak
Using a windbreak will guard against wind chill by preventing cold drafts from blowing heat out of your hive.
The first thing a beekeeper has to do is survey the location of the hives and ask these questions:
1. Which direction does the wind blow most of the time?
2. Are there any natural or manmade windbreaks next to the hives?

If you have natural windbreaks like trees or a hill that directs the wind to blow up over your hives, or a manmade windbreak like a barn or shed that blocks the wind from blowing directly on your hives, I wouldn't bother with wrapping. If you don't have these wind breaks, then you might want to make your own using bales of straw, or put up a temporary fence made of plywood and fence posts.

Or you can do what I do. I loosely wrap old carpet (I get mine from a carpet installer) around the sides and back of the hive stand, leaving the front open. The carpet should be tall enough to go from the ground up to sixteen inches higher than the top of the hive. I fold over the top edge of the carpet, like wrapping a Christmas present, and strap down the whole thing. The carpet backing should face out, exposed to the weather.

Beekeepers who wrap their hives use several different types of material: tar paper, Styrofoam insulation board, and a new product called Bee Cozy Hive Wraps. They all will act as a windbreak and also insulate the hive to help maintain a warmer inside temperature.

You are just going to have to figure out what will best work for you, depending on your hive's location.

I follow the "Vino Farm" on YouTube for some bee entertainment, and he has two videos that I think sums up what I have been talking about when it comes to all the variables in honey bee winter preparation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WaidqYALcaI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qWFR0-yLh9w
I hope this information will help you prepare your bee colonies for the coming winter.
Happy Beekeeping!
Charlie Thomas, SBA President