How to over winter your bees

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BeeGAP

Jun 20

Here is a short video on how to prepare your bees for over-wintering between May - September.

Why do we need to over winter our bees?

Over wintering our bees is an important annual process as it helps to keep any parasitoids that might affect your bees under control. In New Zealand, we're reasonably luck to only have 1 major parasitoid that affects leafcutter and solitary bees. This parasitoid is called Melittobia and is only around 1mm in size.

What does over wintering the bees involved?

The process of over wintering your bees is very simple. It involves seperating the used nesting tunnels from the empty ones, and storing the the used nesting tunnels at around 4 degrees celcius for between 3-9 months. This process can be completed any time from April onwards and is complete around September.

How do I store my bees?

Storing your bees at around 4 degrees celcius is as easy as popping them a tub or container in your domestic refrigerator. Most domestic refrigerators are set at between 2-8 degrees which is a perfect temperature range for your bees. Please note that it's best to store them towards the top of your refigerator, in the side door away from the rear of the refrigerator as this is the least likely place to develop moist or ice spots.

Can I put my bees in the freezer?

No, this is highly discouraged as it will have a negative effect on the bees. The bees can deal with short bursts of sub-zero temperatures but only for a few hours, not sustained lengthy periods of time.

Do I need to remove my bees from the nesting tunnels?

No, this is not necessary. You can store the entire nesting tunnels containing bees in the tub or container for the entire over wintering period. In the spring all you'll need to do is place the over wintered bee nesting tunnels back inside your BeeHome, where they will start to incubate naturally as the weather warms as we head in to the warmer summer months.

Can all my bees (solitary and leafcutter) be over wintered?

Yes, they can all be over wintered. We suggest placing them back outside in September as some solitary and native bees start to fly earlier in the season than the leafcutter bees.

Do I need to check on my bees while they're over wintering?

Yes, we'd recommended checking the container every 2-4 weeks to ensure that a build up of moisture or mold doesn't start to take hold. To avoid excess moisture within your tub or container, ensure there's a pieces of kitchen roll or tissue paper at the bottom of the tub or container, and the lid has a few air holes to allow for some air flow.

What should I do if I notice too much moisture or mould starting to occur?

Remove the nesting tunnels from the tub or container, and gentle wipe clean any moisture or mold built up with a dry cloth. Then place the nesting tunnels in the sun for an hour or two to thoroughly dry out. Clean and thoroughly dry your tub or container and place a new piece of kitchen roll or tissue in the bottom. Place the nesting tunnels back inside your tub or container and return the refrigerator.

Should I bring my BeeHome inside over the winter months?

Although not required, we do suggest bringing it indoors over the winter months especially if your area is prone to hard frosts or harsh winter weather conditions. Store the BeeHome in a shed or garage along with any excess nesting tunnels ready for the upcoming season in September. You may also wish to clean the roof with an old rag and dust off any built up spider webs.