Flow Frames in the winter

As this question will reveal, I am a new beekeeper. I am located just outside of Boston, MA.

I have a pretty robust hive right now know I have to leave a good supply of honey for the bees to survive the winter. I know that there are frames of capped honey in the two brood boxes. I plan to add fondant. I was not planning on leaving the Flow Frames on for the winter - can someone tell me if this is correct.

I have a couple of other questions.

I plan to do a mite check when I remove the honey super. When do I do the final harvest of the Flow Frames and remove the super? My understanding is that the bees would not be depositing nectar in the Flow Frames if there is space in the frames in the brood boxes.

When do I add the fondant and where, and is there anything special I need to do with the brood boxes? I plan to move them closer to my house to protect them from the cold and wind (winter here can be pretty nasty).

Thanks for any advice.

Not necessarily. My supers are full at the moment, just waiting to get them capped but the brood boxes are relatively empty of honey.
I take them off in time to treat for Varroa, they are coming of in a couple of weeks. I have to get the hive clean before the queen starts laying winter bees.
What do other beekeepers in your area do?
I make sure my hives have 40b of winter stores. They are insulated cedar or polystyrene and they are warm as toast. I have never had to give them fondant but I do check weights after Christmas just in case.
Beware of feeding too much or you will have to take store frames off in the Spring and if you don’t have drawn combs to replace them with your build-up will be slower.
If you are moving your hives remember to move them in increments or wait for a forecast cold spell of a week and do it all in one go.
Better still. Insulate them and you can leave them where they are.

Absolutely correct in your location.

When the nectar flow is mostly over for the year in your area. Your local beekeepers will be able to help you with when that might be. Here in San Diego, CA, our flow is over, apart from a few minor sources in the next 3 months. Of course, our nectar flow is strongly dependent on rain, and we are in a long term drought.

It would be good to do a mite check ASAP - their numbers relative to bee population will be exploding right now, as the queen will have decreased her laying, but the mites are still increasing. Mid-August is a good time for a first treatment, and you definitely should treat if the count is high. I think a lot of colonies are lost overwinter to mites - the other major causes of loss are starvation and condensation.

I have never used fondant. I feed syrup in Fall, the 2:1 sugar:water (standard late season feed recipe), if the colony doesn’t have enough stores for the winter. My understanding is that fondant is more of a winter food, and is usually placed on top of the upper brood box frame top bars, around the middle of the hive. That way the cluster of bees can reach it easily in cold weather.

If you move them, make sure it is less than 3 feet, or more than 3 miles. Wait a week or two before you move them again if you need too.

Some people put a “quilt box” on top of the hive for winter. This stops condensation. You will either need to make one, or buy one from Bee Thinking if you want a matching box:
I don’t need one, but if i bought the Bee Thinking product, I would drill some 1" vent holes in the top, and cover them with #8 hardware cloth or insect screen to keep critters out, but allow ventilation.
Here is a description of how to make one with vent holes:

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Just move them…

With this…your own caveat
Keep in mind that cold weather can complicate things in odd contradictory ways. On the one hand if they have been confined for 72 hours and you move them, they are most likely to reorient. On the other hand if they fly back to the old location they have to find the hive again before they get too chilled or they will die.

When I had my first hive I didn’t take any chances with it.


I agree with @Dee. You may well get away with Michael’s method, especially if the bees are stuck inside for 3 days or more, and you put shrubs/grass/obstruction in front of the entrance to make them re-orient. However, it is a risk as the weather cools, and if a pile of forager bees sits sulking at the old location, you risk losing them overnight. I wouldn’t do it unless I had other hives that I wasn’t going to move. If you are moving your only bees, you have more to risk if you lose or seriously weaken the hive.

In good weather it’s hard to go wrong. Just move them. My theory is never move them without a reason. But never hesitate to move them if you need to and the weather is good. The bees will sort things out in a day or at the most two. They will be just as confused if you move them 3 feet as they will be if you move them 30 yards.


This was my might count in my five hives. I did the powdered sugar method.

. I will treat for mites here the last week of August. Last week of September I will do a recheck depending on our local weather n average temps. If needed I can retreat with oxide-vapors that retest date or next fair day.

My hives are the last 5 hives on that graph. I’m part of a regional mite study n research sample here in Puget Sound.

I counted my strong hive today - 8 mites on 300 bees. Mite identity positively confirmed with a dissecting microscope… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

I was all ready to treat, but that is below threshold. I had seen DWV on a couple of bees in that hive. However, the queen is laying up a storm in both brood boxes, although she lost her mark (or got superseded). I re-marked her today. The hive was not happy. But we also took everything apart to install the Arnia hive monitor, so I am not surprised. :blush:

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Hi Dawn,

Had to use a strong magnifier glass as I have nothing but a 5" telescope. Great for stars but sucks for mites…

Our study group will treat four diifferent methods. I chose the Mite Away Strips which we will wait for last week of this month. Still have some good queen n fair nectar action.

I will probably remove my extra supers at same time. I really don’t want English Ivy in the Flow-Super because I’ve been warned that this last nectar crystallizes easily n might be very difficult to remove from my
Flow by local experts who are Pro-Flow but don’t want me in trouble.

That new system of yours sounds pretty neat. Our local research group had 100 sensor system active last winter. Not sure which brand.

Anyway… Thanks for the quick note back…


How many hives do you have Jerry? I ask because using Formic acid strips this late in the season is risky. You could lose your queen when it’s less easy for the bees to replace her and you have a brood break just when you don’t need it for winter build up. Just my opinion though

Can you tell us about the Arnia hive monitor system?

Hi Pat,

The system allows you to monitor hive weight, humidity, brood temperature and bee activity (flight and fanning). It also has an optional weather station to measure sunlight, temperature and rainfall. This is what was in my kit, all very nicely made:

I will start a new thread so that you can follow my experience. It is going to take a while to write, so it may not go on the forum for a day or two.

Meanwhile, you can read about the system on their website www.arnia.co.uk

Ooo really look forward to that.

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