Hi. Before I start, I am aware that it’s best to talk to a local beekeeping club or apiarists about recommendations for wintering. My issue is that I live in the mountains/hinterlands behind the Gold Coast which has a slightly colder climate to the coast (where the beekeeping club is). I am trying to get in contact with local apiarists on my mountain (none are flow hives that I know of), and I have been reading up general advice on wintering, but I wouldn’t mind getting some advice specific to my situation on this forum in the meantime.
Our climate here is borderline sub-tropical/warm temperate: Min temperatures over winter are usually between 5-10 degC, but have been known to occasionally get down to 2-4 degC. We don’t get frost on our property as we are on top of a hill, but some neighbours do. Max temperatures are usually around 15-20 degC. Winter is our dry season and we usually get a decent number of clear days and not too much rain. We also do have some plants that bloom during late winter and some that are just starting to bloom now.
My hive is new, established in early October of last year. They’ve had some disease issues and aren’t as strong as they probably could be, but the brood box is chock-full of bees at least. I didn’t think they had started storing in the flow super at all (so figured the easy solution was just to take the super off over winter) but I opened them up about a week ago and they had probably the equivalent of about 1.5-2 flow frames of capped honey (spread over the centres of the middle 3-4 frames). They also had the equivalent of about 3.5-4 frames of capped honey in the brood box, spread over multiple frames. They are still bringing in pollen at least as of yesterday.
Given our climate isn’t super-cold in winter, I’m not sure what the best approach is for wintering. Is there a potential queen-desertion issue given the temps aren’t ridiculously cold and there isn’t a huge amount of honey in the super anyway? Is there even enough honey worth leaving the super on for? If not, when should I remove it, given they are still bringing in food (pollen at least, not sure about how to tell if they are still bringing in nectar). Should I go through the hassle of extracting the small amount of honey in the super (which I’ve never done before), removing it and feeding it back? Could I remove the super without extraction and just clean and store the frames of capped honey ready to give back to them in Spring(?) (and just regularly feed sugar syrup over winter)? I’m also not totally sure about how much honey they need to see them through winter, given the temperatures don’t get super cold, and also I know we do get some blooms over early and late winter and a decent number of clear days. I thought as a precaution I could feed them regardless, but I have read that this can confuse the queen into laying more brood if they don’t really need it.
I know I ideally should have taken action earlier but due to health issues I have been largely incapacitated for the last 4-6 weeks, so just need to do the best I can now to make sure my colony survives the next few months. Any advice is very much appreciated!