Rule 7 Part 1

I’m jumping ahead this time but we’ll get back to Rule 3 soon. But this time I’m looking at something more timely…. The Seventh Rule is: Enough Good Food.

I am guilty of not following this rule this past winter. I’ve lost colonies during winters in the past…most recently to issues with queens, and especially longer ago to tracheal mites. But it’s been awhile since I’ve lost a colony to starvation. Actually, a long while. But this year three of the five out back flat ran out of food, and I haven’t had a chance to check the top bar yet. I have to take that apart to get to see, and taking it apart is both a lot of work – removing insulation mostly plus the skirt around the legs that goes over the top is quite disruptive to the bees. Plus, once down, getting it back up is iffy because it’s always a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of thing, and getting it back the way it was is … well, iffy. So I’ll wait.

Meanwhile, the three that starved, and the two that didn’t, all had at least 100 pounds of honey, and several frames of pollen stashed away on Oct 1 or so. That’s the way we do wintering. Plus, every colony has at least some wrapping…black plastic with a think layer of insulation on one side…covering it from head to foot. Some had that thick, weather-proof cardboard box over that even…I worry about my bees.

But 100 pounds gone by mid-February. Not unheard of certainly, and this winter not surprising I suppose, but what a waste and what a sad end to good colonies. Good queens, lots of bees, healthy otherwise…and lost because I wasn’t paying attention. I checked in December…all alive, and all still down quite a ways from the top of the stack of boxes.

And it was simply running out of food. There wasn’t a frame of honey, not even a partial frame of honey left. One of the photos shows the top of one of the hives that starved. That’s a protein patty I put one when we checked in December…they never got to it, and when they reached the top and no honey…protein wasn’t on the menu. Carbs is what they needed…and there were none to be found.

I obviously didn’t follow the rule…Enough Good Food. But my bees paid the penalty of that infraction.


  • Christine Friedel says:

    I will be starting 2 hives this spring. I live in southern lower Michigan. Would you please provide more information on insulating your hives in the winter? Thank you.

  • Kim Flottum says:

    I wrap my hives for winter using several materials. You can simply use roofing paper (tarpaper), or any of the materials bee supply companies sell. I like the heavy duty corrugated cardboard box that fits over a colony too. Be sure to allow for adequate ventilation out of the top of the colony so you don’t get condensation. My book Better Beekeeping has an incredible amount of detail on all of this for more info. But join a local beekeeping club and get to know local beekeepers who can tell you what works for them.

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