Hives Still Wrapped

The last cold spell of winter has hit mid-Missouri and my hives are still wrapped.

The last cold spell of winter has hit mid-Missouri and my hives are still wrapped.

Hives Still Wrapped Against Winter Cold

Beekeeping is as much an art as science, and when it comes to when to unwrap hives, I tend to put it off as long as possible.

The decision has very little to do with bees and most everything to do with Missouri's even more erratic weather patterns. As our rapidly changing weather continues to change, it is becoming harder to forecast temperatures and trends. One week temperatures are in the 60s, the next week below freezing temperatures and snow, and we should just get used to these extreme fluctuations.

For bees, it's not the cold that kills but condensation, or getting wet. So going into winter, I have my hives wrapped in an insulated black lined plastic that absorbs heat with a white liner that keeps hive seals dry, just in case the girls have missed a spot when they have sealed up the hive with propolis, a glue-like substance they produce from tree sap.

I also tie down the lids to keep rain from getting in, and add dry sugar bricks inside to help with absorbing moisture. The sugar blocks give them an extra food supply in case they run out.

This mild winter, other beekeepers were unwrapping their hives end of February but I wasn't so sure. 

Mid-March, a week of below freezing weather hit. I still had not opened the hives and broken the propolis seals so I wasn't too worried about them getting wet. I was also glad to look out the windows to see them still wrapped up against the cold.

As temperatures head up into the 60s, now I have to decide if spring has actually arrived. All of the signs in nature indicate we may be as much as 3-4 weeks ahead of schedule this year. Maybe once I start seeing more garden flowers blooming I will feel more comfortable taking those wraps off, we'll see!