I've been asked what I do to overwinter my hives, honestly this is my first year so I'm not sure I'd listen to what I have to say, but here goes. Everyone has their way to do it and they are probably all right. Here's one way..
1. Feed the bees. For the last few weeks I have been feeding the bees a simple syrup (2:1 ratio sugar to water) to help them prep for the winter.
2. Stop feeding the bees. My bee mentors recommended I stop feeding them this week (11/7/10 - I'm North of Boston) to make sure whatever they have taken they can convert to food. Too much syrup is dangerous because of all the water in it. It needs time to convert. The water can create a risky environment in the hive. Too humid. Too moist. Frozen. Not good
3. I don't medicate. Ask any beekeeper and you will get a different answer. I may be making a mistake, but I think they hives are strong and I guess I just don't love the idea of medicating something that is healthy. I will let you know how it goes. Some give a dose of Fumadil B to avoid winter dysentery.
4. Put the entrance reducer in. Now is when visitors arrive. Mice! It is warm and cozy in the hive so mice often try and sneek their way into this little warm box. You want to keep them out.
5. Put a layer of homosote and insulation above your inner cover. Bees generate humidity. This moisture can be dangerous for the bees and needs to have an easy way to vent out the top of the hive. I put a homosote layer on top of the inner cover to absorb the moisture, then I put styrofoam insulation on top. Some people take a large super and fill it with hay as an insulation layer. I might try that on one hive to see how it goes.
6. Make sure your honey stores are right above the brood.
7. Leave 100 pounds of honey per hive. I should have put this first. Leave it for them, don't take it. Each frame is about 7 pounds of honey, so each super is about 70 pounds.
8. Wrap your hives in black tar paper. I wrap my hives in simple black tar paper, then tie it with string or a bungie cord. Duct tape doesn't really work in this environment. It keeps the hive dry and on sunny days it helps warm the hive so the bees can move to the honey stores. It makes the bees happy!
Everyone seems to have a different view on how to do it. This is just one way. I'd love to hear your suggestions.