So last couple winters were good with my bees, didn’t harvest any honey just before and after, even though I wanted to. So I want to know what factors to consider in order to decide whether to harvest during winter or not, if it’s even a choice. I’m just a free time beekeeper and I leave my bees to a friend of mine who is a full timer. He says that no matter what we shouldn’t harvest during winter.
In the US, he is absolutely right, unless you are in Hawaii and perhaps some parts of southern Florida.
Same here. My bees are asleep in the winter
You probably could harvest from flow frames during winter if there is a honey flow on because you are not opening the hive up, & exposing it to cold air like you would the traditional way.
That is assuming you know the frames are ready to harvest without removing them to physically inspect them.
I was looking at my photographic records yesterday and I harvested this time two years ago (winter) from an ideal super and then a Flow super harvest on the same hive about a month later. Very strong colony and good urban nectar at that time. I am in the coldest most southern State here in Australia. I have looked in the hives recently and they don’t appear to have eaten any of the honey and/or sugar feed that I left them in autumn.
It really all depends of the type of winter you have in your location, if it is a colder climate you shouldn’t disturb the hive and expose it to cold air, but your profile any says you are in the US. Think about that, Florida has a different winter to your norther states like Minnesota do it might be wise to update your profile so we can better advise you. But generally good bee management says leave honey for the bees over winter.
Nectar flow and availability for the bees to forage for pollen are another factor Probably your friend has given you good advise as has the others on the forum, leave them to use the honey as insulation against the winter and for food till the Spring so that you will have a strong hive to build up when the weather warm up again.
A lot of hives die during winter and that is mostly due to the cold or the bees simply have starved. Food for thought, but till you have survived a winter or two I would go for playing it safe for the bees.
Regards and welcome to the forum.
I should add that the bees where I am forage all year (to some extent) and although there is plenty of frost and very occasional (rare) snow to sea level, the daytime maximums are around 12c average and there are always a few flowers around in the winter. It is not a winter anything like those that can be found in many parts if the US.
Here in SoCal, they forage all year too. But they still lose weight over winter. Sometimes, they lose weight all summer too:
Hi Dawn, I’m not surprised they forage all year there with you nice mild winters. Only 10 inches of rain a year is a problem I guess. I’m trying to work out what to do with all the sugar in the supers now. I took one off the other day and have extracted the unripe honey the bees have recently added around the exterior of the sugar in frames that were not full, and I guess I’ll hang them up in a sealed plastic bag (heavy) so the ants can’t get at them and in case things go pear shaped later in the season. Freezer full… My mongrel bees seem strangely frugal but have no others to compare them to.
Do you have a close up of the ironbark flower/leaves?
They are too high up! Can try to get a drone photo.
I’ll post a photo I took this morning (I’ll put it under another topic) and would be grateful for an opinion.
Iron barks will produce in a much drier climate than you have there. We have much of the bush in flower and the bees are very busy and doing splits for hives already ordered. Happy and busy days.
Hey Dan, Most of my hives that started as splits in April and I thought it wise to feed them sugar/water but the bees have not stopped foraging over the cooler weather so much that I had to extract frames in July. Done a few splits for our ‘Spring’ and busy at the apiary. Not much rain about but it is our dry season here.
I hear you. Yet, one of the ironbark trees at the edge of the forest is getting brown leaves that are falling off and the flowers are browning up.
Still, all the other ironbark are looking good.
It is so dry, many eucalyptus are throwing off brown leaves, like in a European autumn. In the 32 years of living here, I haven’t seen it that dry often. It’s about to turn extreme.
More coastal areas may get some moisture from ocean proximity.
For now, the bees are happy.
Hi Peter, yes, I wonder if my bees stored the sugar throughout the hive and not just the top super - so they might move it up into the super (that I have just put on for honey) as they make room for brood and pollen? I hadn’t thought too much about this possibility when I fed them in autumn -I suppose I thought back then they would eat the sugar on the cold and windy days. I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to do it again.
Hey Dan, I fell into the same trap as you did. Beekeeping is all a learning curve and in hind sight I see no reason to even feed my nucs. up here.The bee scene is so much different to what I had down west of Sydney and I find it better to forget that.
I figure my bees stored the honey as a bonus for them as there has hardly been a day that they are not foraging.
Iron bark have very deep root systems so any water available to them didn’t happen in recent rains. Gauge the performance of the iron barks on how the others are performing which it seems are different to one tree. but on the other side it has not been a long or cold winter up here. Yes, it has been a poor ‘winter’ for rain but it is also our dry season.
Overall my bees are going very well. I don’t bother with what is flowering as much as that is something for them to feed on.
I’m very interested in what is flowering and what the bees feed on, and what they don’t feed on. Up here in the National Park I don’t have the variety as they have down urban coastal.
Even though, 8 pollen colours in a 24 hour period sure is more than just one variety.
I am also learning to relate the pollen/nectar sources to the taste and viscosity of the honey in the different flow frames.