Wintering your Flow Hive
In: Frequently Asked Questions
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We cannot emphasise enough that it is best to consult your local beekeepers on this and other beekeeping questions. If there is a bee club near you, we encourage you to join it. You will get several opinions on what to do – but you will be able to pick the most suitable approach for your situation.
There are two main concerns for a beehive over the winter months; the colony starving, and the queen becoming stranded below the queen excluder. This response is oriented toward overwintering the Flow Hive – there is plenty of general information about overwintering bees on the web.
It is most likely that you will have a standard Flow Hive consisting of a brood box and a Flow Super. In cold climates the general recommendation is for the bees to have a super full of honey for their food during the cold months. If you have a reasonably full Flow Super at the end of your nectar flow season you can leave it on the hive for the bees to use over the coming months. This will ensure they will not starve; however, you also need to ensure the queen can access these honey reserves.. During a cold winter the bees do not forage but will steadily use up the honey stores in order to stay warm. The queen will not be laying brood at this time, so the colony will cluster around the honey that it is consuming. This means that the cluster may gradually move up into the honey super over winter. If you have a queen excluder in place she will not be able to move up with the colony and will die. Therefore, it is recommended that you remove the queen excluder as part of your preparation for winter. Of course you will probably want to replace the queen excluder as the warmer weather arrives and you will have to ensure that the queen is actually in the brood box before you do so.
We also recommend insulating the top of the hive by putting Styrofoam, wool insulation, etc. between the top cover and the hive roof. To minimise cold draughts; you may also put the corflute slider in the top position and reduce the size of the entrance to being just 30mm / an inch or so wide.
Some cold climate beekeepers prefer to reduce their hive to one box, the brood box, over winter. There are usually one or two frames of honey on each side of the brood, and this plus the option of feeding them a sugar solution either before or after the coldest months gets the colony through the winter. This eliminates issues with the queen excluder and there are advantages to the bees being confined to a smaller space. If you decide to take this approach, at the end of your nectar flow season extract the honey in the Flow Super and leave it in place for a day for the bees to clean, then remove the Flow Super with frames and queen excluder and replace the top cover and roof on the brood box adding some insulation in between
To store your Flow Frames wash them in warm to hot water and allow them to dry thoroughly before storing them in a cool, dry, dark* location for the winter.
*The Flow frame plastic is UV sensitive.
These two options apply to the complete Flow Hive setup with a single brood box and Flow Super; however, with advice you may want to add an extra brood box or standard super to your hive giving you more choice in overwintering configurations.