Winter preparation of hives is the concern on everyone’s mind right now. Hopefully, everything is done already. The brood should be in the bottom hive body, and honey and bee bread consolidated in the box(es) above. The queen excluder should be removed, so that the bees can’t accidentally abandon the queen in moving to upper honey frames. A shim should be in place on top of the uppermost hive body to allow for sugar or candy boards, with an upper exit in front, not in back, of the hive. Mouse guards need to be in place. Solid bottoms/sliders should be in.
The reason we do all of this early is so that the bees can propolize everything together so that there aren’t drafts going through the cluster. Now, what is most important for us to do in our bees is…nothing. Don’t worry about them being cold, bees can handle cold. Don’t try to help them with cold in any way that would decrease ventilation. Don’t separate hive bodies, don’t break the propolis seals. Don’t disturb the bees. Do go out and tip the hive forward, just enough that you can feel how heavy it is. This is your point of reference for later in the winter as to whether they need supplemental feeding.
Also, the bees are still collecting water, but they need warm water. I put warm water out, but it gets cold quickly. The bees fill up on it, the cold paralyses them, and they fall in. This is the perfect time of year to use the ash from your wood stove to keep the bee water warm. Each morning, shovel the warm ash out of the wood stove, into a metal five gallon bucket. A metal deep pizza pan with warm water goes on top. The pizza pan keeps the wind from blowing ash all over and potentially starting a fire, while the ash keeps the water just warm enough for the bees. Enjoy watching the bees at the water, dump it out in the afternoon. T