Beekeeping for Beginners

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Bees overwintering

Preparation of bee colonies for overwintering

To achieve high honey production, it is very important how the bee colonies will prepare for hibernation, how it will be taken and what it will be like at the time of hibernation. Therefore, these issues should be given due attention.

Honey removal

When the bee grazing is over and the nectar intake stops, the honeycombs (extensions and semi-extensions) should be removed and placed in the warehouse, and the empty honeycombs should be carefully stored.

The basic rule of beekeeping dictates that excess honeycombs should never be touched in the hive with the bee company. This is especially true for the grazing period and for the period of preparation of bee societies for wintering. So, the nests of bee colonies should be narrowed to the required extent, according to their strength, and the excess honeycombs should be removed.


First of all, it should be stored in the rooms where it will be stored until next season. If there is excess honeycomb in the hatching area, shake the bees out of it and remove it from the hive. First, the old and blackened honeycomb is removed, whose cells are expanded or all the honeycombs and honeycombs are narrowed, because such a honeycomb is not suitable for making young bees, it should be melted in wax.

The honeycomb is susceptible to the attack of wax moths, so it should be kept in closed and dry rooms with wire nets with windows through which the moth butterfly cannot enter, and which, at the same time, allows ventilation.

Frames with an empty honeycomb are arranged in semi-extensions, i.e. extensions, but somewhat less frequently than they were arranged in the hive. Then the extensions and semi-extensions are arranged on top of each other to the height that the room allows, but so that they completely lie on top of each other, so that there is no opening where butterfly moths could enter and lay eggs on the honeycomb.

Detailed overview of bee colonies

It is essential that bee colonies should not be disturbed by test examinations, and detailed examinations should be performed twice a year. The first time during wintering, and the second time before the start of preparation for wintering. During this second inspection, it is very important to determine the strength of the bee colony, the quantity and quality of food in the hive, the existence of the queen and its quality, the condition of the honeycombs and the health condition of the worker bees and brood. All of these are elements that are really necessary in order to be able to make proper and timely preparations of bee colonies for overwintering.

In parallel with this detailed inspection, sometimes later, the beehive is rearranged, if necessary. In strong societies, when the end frames are filled with honey at least a little more than half, no rearrangement of the nest is required. Otherwise, the size of the nest should be evaluated and the excess space in the hive should be separated, by wrapping a frame with empty honeycomb on each side with a layer of newsprint and placing it next to the nest. The paper should touch the base, and then a partition board should be placed.
The size of the nest is estimated according to the number of occupied streets. The number of occupied streets can be best seen before the club is formed, if we open the hive earlier in the morning, while it is even colder, and take a look through the gaps from the boards. The size of the nest is estimated according to the number of occupied streets when it warms up, because the bees then thin out. According to the number of occupied streets, we estimate the amount of honey, and all this is a sure basis for determining the size of the nest. When rearranging the nest, we take out the extra frames and take them to the warehouse, and fill the empty space in the hive with warming material, pads, quince, newsprint, etc.

Kosnice snijeg

When rearranging the beehive, all frames with more honey, especially those from the earlier bee hive, are moved to the central part of the hive, and those that are partially filled with honey, towards the ends of the hive. The same should be done with frames filled with pollen powder, so the food will be closer to the bee club when it is formed. It is good to put 4 to 5 frames with honey and pollen powder in the central part of the hive at a normal distance from each other, and the rest a little less often. To achieve this, one to two frames can be ejected from the brood.

It often happens, especially in certain years, that at this time of year some bee colonies have a surplus of food, while others do not have enough to overwinter. In such cases, food should be exchanged between the hives. For those who have a surplus, take away one or two frames with honey and add it to those societies that are in need. This provided that all the societies in the apiary are equally healthy. For overwintering, preference should be given to honey from early grazing, which is known to be much lighter in color than late .

Winter food

The first job right after inspecting bee colonies is to provide enough food for overwintering, pre-spring, and early spring development. It is especially important that according to the strength of the society, we estimate how much food is needed for each winter society to overwinter. Summarizing many opinions and my own many years of experience, it takes about 2.7 to three kilograms of honey for each street inhabited by bees in Dadan-Blato's hive.

Hranilica pčele

Understandably, if it is determined that there is not enough honey in the hive for wintering, then feeding only ensures the difference between the existing and the required amount of honey. It is usually calculated that one bee colony needs 16 to 30 kilograms of honey for overwintering, pre-spring and early spring development, depending on the strength of the colony and the length of its wintering (wintering is not the same in all areas). If the colonies are fed sugar in any form, in order to create a reserve food for wintering, then it is best to do that before the young bees that will overwinter hatch. Because, if these young worker bees process larger amounts of sugar, their vitality will be reduced, which will be most reflected in the time of pre-spring and early spring activity to restore the bee colony.

If there is forest honey in the hive or honey from fruit juices, then it should be completely squeezed, because it is not suitable for feeding bees over the winter, because it contains indigestible substances. As bees cannot hatch normally for purification in winter, diarrhea and diseases of the digestive organs occur. In severe cases, the bee colony may die. Honey made from sugar syrup is great for overwintering bees, because it does not contain indigestible substances. Sugar is practically an irreplaceable reproductive material in beekeeping and without it there is no advanced beekeeping and high and profitable honey production. In order to provide honey for wintering, as much syrup is poured into the feeder every night as the bees can take over and place in one night, so that, in a short time, the desired effects are achieved.

They live longer, until they produce young to replace them in early spring, their fat body is much more developed, they are much more vital, they are able to produce, use and store heat in winter, which is very important for overwintering, easier. They work and perform their functions even under difficult conditions, especially under difficult conditions they can successfully feed and nurture the brood, etc.

In order for the bees to produce as many young workers as possible during this period, they should have at least enough irritating pastures, so that they know that the daily intake of nectar is at least 200 to 300 grams. If there is no such intake, then from the beginning of August the society should be stimulated with honey or sugar syrup, or sugar cakes and sugar-honey dough. If the irritating feeding is done with sugar syrup, then every night, when the bees stop flying out of the hive, 150 to 200 grams of syrup are fermented into the feeder, keeping in mind everything that has already been said about it. If irritating supplementation is done with sugar cakes or sugar-honey dough. If the hive has a runaway, and there is an opening for feeding and ventilation on the cover board, then sugar cakes and sugar-honey test can be placed on the cover board from above, around the opening for ventilation and feeding.


Irritant feeding of dry food has the advantage that bee colonies do not have to be fed every night, but every ten days a kilogram to a kilogram of sugar cakes or sugar-honey dough is added. And the danger of predation is far less, there is less work, which is especially important for beekeepers whose beehives are far from their place of residence, because they do not need to travel to the beehive every day. However, with liquid food far greater effects are achieved, i.e. bees can take more food in one evening, and thus the queen is encouraged to lay more eggs, which means that the bee colony develops faster, ie a larger number of worker bees is born.

Only those bee colonies that enter the winter with about 35 thousand young worker bees, bred from the beginning of August until the taking, can next year turn into extremely strong production companies and achieve high honey production.

Disadvantages that most often and most can disrupt and damage bee colonies during hibernation are:

  • stronger earthquakes that can cause bees to disengage from the hive in which they spend the winter, and to find bees on the hive. When it’s cold the bees that fall off the hive can’t get back on it and die on the floor. The more bees fall off the hive and die, the harder it is for the bees to overwinter. With strong earthquakes, the whole society can die.
  • The presence of varroa in the bee colony on a larger scale has a very detrimental effect on the overwintering of the bee colony
  • Stinging mice and other pests enter the hive during the winter, can cause great damage, depending on the intensity of the attack
  • It is insufficiently known to a large number of beekeepers that more frequent and significant changes in climate change during the winter can do a lot of damage to bee colonies. If warm, beautiful and sunny days appear more often and for longer during the winter period, and then cold, windy days with snowfall return, the greater the damage to bee colonies. When it happens that in mid-January, for example, very warm and beautiful sunny days, the whole bee colony is activated, food consumption increases, the microclimate in the hive changes, the queen begins to lay eggs, and a bee brood appears, etc. When later cold, the bee colony returns to its original state, with a series of consequences, and the worst thing is that the bees lose their life force - vitality.

All these and a number of other phenomena that disturb the normal during the wintering of bee colonies, cause their disturbance, which is why worker bees, if they do not die, get very tired and lose their vitality. Such workers after wintering, when their vitality is most needed for warming, caring for and feeding the brood, i.e. for faster spring development of the bee colony, do not have enough life force, which causes the impossibility of high honey yields. Therefore, special attention must be paid to the preparations for overwintering, wintering and care of bee colonies over the winter.

When bees are fed in any form, in order to provide reserve food for overwintering, it is best to do so before the young worker bees are taken out to overwinter, so that they do not process sugar into honey, and thus reduce vitality. This would be particularly detrimental in cases where varroa is present in bee colonies on a larger scale.

How bees overwinter

To make it easier to understand the work on taking and caring for bee colonies in the winter, here is a brief overview of the life of the bee colony in the hive in winter. As soon as the temperature drops below 13 degrees Celsius, the bee colonies begin to form balls in which they overwinter. Bees are very sensitive to cold. At a lower temperature, they stiffen, and die soon after. However, in the ball, they can withstand a very low outdoor temperature and perform basic life functions until more favorable conditions are created for their life and work. Bee balls have the shape of a slightly elongated ball with a certain cavity inside. In the ball, the bees are attached to each other and in that way produce and store heat. The bees in the ball do not rest, they constantly make quiet and light movements by moving the bees from the outside of the club towards the inside, and vice versa. In this way, the production, storage and use of heat is properly distributed to all worker bees.

It is very interesting that the difference between the heat in the club cavity and the heat outside the club, at a distance of only ten centimeters, can be up to 20 degrees Celsius. However, on the outside of the club itself, the heat is satisfactory for the bees. In the cold period, while in the ball, the bees consume very little food, far less than in the grazing period, i.e. in the period of hatching and normal work. That is why bees can spend quite a long time without purification, only in winter, provided they are left with quality food.


Understandably, as soon as a warmer and sunnier day is indicated, the bees fly out of the hive to clean themselves. However, if bad food is left for the winter, for example, forest honey, honey from fruit juices and similar, in which there are a lot of indigestible substances, serious problems arise. In the large intestine of bees, these indigestible substances cannot be kept for a long time, diarrhea occurs which causes very harmful consequences, and bee colonies can die. During the great cold, the members of the society cannot move from the club, nor the clubs as a whole, in order to get closer to the food. They then look for food that is located exclusively in the immediate vicinity of the club, and above all that above the club from which the honey cap or, as it is also called, the honey wreath is formed.

Excess moisture in hives in winter can also cause great damage. Then the humidity is high both outside the hives and in parts of the hive outside the bees of the club water vapor is created, so if the ventilation is not well regulated, under the influence of cold it turns into droplets. Knowing the living conditions and the life of bee colonies in winter, the beekeeper should take all measures in a timely manner in order to enable bee colonies to overwinter as easily and successfully as possible. It is especially important to point out that while they are in the club, they must not be disturbed. Every, even the smallest, shake of the hive can cause the bees to fall from the club on the floor, and that practically means that all those bees that fall on the floor will die, because during great cold they are not able to return to the balls.

Uzimljavanje рčelinjih društava

How the colony will develop in the spring and how much honey it will collect during the main grazing period, depends primarily on what kind of colonies came out of the winter, and that will ensure proper wintering and nurturing until winter. Before taking, i.e. as soon as the entire litter is taken out, or the litter is reduced to a minimum, the beehives of the company should be treated against varroa in accordance with all the instructions that are obtained when purchasing protective equipment.

Also, before taking it, it should be clarified whether the bee colonies should be warmed or not. Let us immediately remind beekeepers of the fact that far more often bee colonies suffer from excess moisture in the hive and from hunger, and less frequently, or very rarely from the cold. Therefore, the bees of the colony should be warmed during wintering, but with the obligatory provision of sufficient quantities of quality food for wintering, pre-spring and early spring development, and regulation of ventilation, so that all water vapor comes out of the hive, or absorbs the warming material. Otherwise, water vapor will condense in the hive and drops of water will fall on the beehives, on the honeycombs filled with honey or pollen powder, on the walls of the hive and on the base. This significantly disrupts the microclimate in the hive, which, according to the degree of disturbance, can cause more or less damage to the honeycomb, honey and pollen powder in it, and to the bee colony as a whole. In severe cases, bee colonies can die. This means that the warming of bee colonies during taking must not be to the detriment of proper or complete ventilation in the hive.

Pčele uzimljavanje

For the purpose of better ventilation, it is good that the entrance reducer on the hive is such that, even when a comb is placed on it against the entry of pests, there are enough openings through which sufficient amounts of fresh air can enter. If it also has an opening on the cover board for ventilation and feeding of bees, then an air column is created between the flight and this opening on the cover board, which enables the flow of fresh air through the hive, which significantly affects the creation and maintenance of a favorable microclimate in the hive. In order to make ventilation easier and more complete, i.e. to create and maintain a more favorable microclimate, it is necessary to place the hives on a stand so that they are slightly inclined to the front towards the flight. This allows all the water, which enters the hive in any way, to slowly flow out through the summer. If the hive is tilted back or is in a completely horizontal position, the water that enters the hive, during showers with strong wind, stays on the base and causes harmful consequences.

It is very important that bee colonies are taken in a timely manner, mostly before they do some of the main work themselves. As soon as the autumn comes, the bees prepare themselves for the winter in a hurry. The queen reduces or stops laying eggs, and the worker bees close all the cavities with propolis, if there are any in the hive, and fasten the frames. The cover board sticks very tightly to the body of the hive. The beekeeper must not allow the bees to do all that dew to take over the colonies only then, because opening the hive will disrupt all that, and the bees will have to spend energy and material to do the same job again. In addition, if it gets cold suddenly in the meantime, the bees will not be able to do it all over again, which can be very detrimental during the winter. Therefore, taking bees should be done in a timely manner.

It is difficult to determine on a calendar basis when to prepare colonies for overwintering. It mostly depends on the climatic conditions. However, it is best if the bee colonies are taken gradually. Namely, during the nest, all the work that is done inside the hive during taking over should be completed: separate the empty space from the bee nest, understandably, if there is one, most often with a partition board. However, in colder areas, some beekeepers practice separating the beehive from the empty space with an empty frame or a frame with an empty honeycomb wrapped in a few sheets of newsprint, placing it next to the beehive and then a partition board. This way, the empty space in the hive can be separated even when there are no partition boards. Newsprint is very suitable, because it is an excellent insulator, and at the same time it absorbs excess moisture in the hive. It rarely happens that this newsprint moistens so much that it should be changed before spring. Water vapor, lighter than air, moves towards the cover board and exits through the opening towards it. If it absorbs a certain amount of moisture, it can stay there until the wintering of the bee colonies next spring.

When the bee nest has been rearranged, it remains to be finally taken after some time, in the continental part in the second half of October or the beginning of November. Then the hive is not opened, that is, the cover board is not removed, but only warming material is placed between the cover board and the escape. It is best to put newsprint here as well.


If the bee colonies are strong enough and if prepared properly, it is quite certain that they will overwinter better and develop better in the spring when they are taken in two parts than in one, but for that to happen certain conditions need to be met. About 75 percent of the capacity of the upper part of the hive should be filled with quality honey, preferably from earlier bee pastures, and there should be enough pollen powder. In the lower part of the hive (fruiting body) there should be about 7 kilograms of honey and a little more pollen powder than in the upper part of the hive. The rest of the space is occupied by empty honeycombs from which the last litter was derived before the final wintering.

When bee colonies are taken then the upper body of the hive should be full of food, the middle body filled with 50 percent of the total capacity, while in the lower part there may be less food, which means that for safe wintering should be left larger amounts of honey - 20 up to 30 pounds. During the winter, under the influence of warm air, which is easier to find in the upper part of the hive, as well as under the influence of food that is there in larger quantities, the bees retreat upwards. At the end of winter, in the upper part of the hive, there are almost all worker bees and queens, which lay eggs in the honeycomb cells from which honey was recently consumed, and those cells are cleaned. Earlier in the spring, when it warms up, the queen speeds up the laying of eggs, so that the entire empty honeycomb in the upper part of the hive is filled with a brood, so the queen has nowhere else to lay eggs. Then the first replacement of the parts of the hive is done very carefully, so that the upper part is placed on the base, and the lower part on top. There are now larger amounts of honey in the lower part of the hive, and since it is natural for bees to store honey in the upper part of the hive, they will transfer honey from the lower to the upper part. This creates the impression in the whole bee society that a richer bee pasture has arrived; The broods intensively feed the queen, and she lays an increasing number of eggs every day. It is, practically, an irritating supplement without adding food from the outside.

After some time, the queen and most of the colony will move to the upper part of the hive, the roost is warmer there and will continue to develop the brood there. This is one of the important measures for the rapid development of bee colonies, which cannot be achieved if they are taken in one part of the hive.

Care of bee colonies over the winter

The apiary should be arranged in the fall, the fence should be repaired, in order to protect the bees from domestic and wild animals that can cause great damage, mow and take the grass out of the apiary and around it, so that the apiary does not grow a shelter for pests, etc. societies are provided with sufficient quality food, when properly taken with enough worker bees, with a young and healthy queen, and in eroded hives, they can successfully winter outside, in the same place where they are at the time of grazing. The most important thing is to ensure absolute peace in the apiary and to protect the hives from strong winds and snow. Any shaking of the hive during cold days can be very harmful for bee colonies. Let us remind you, once again, in the event of an earthquake, the bees can fall off the ball, and when the temperature is low, they cannot return to the ball, but die on the bottom board. Even if the whole ball does not fall on the bottom board, but only a larger number of worker bees, the rest of the worker bees on the club cannot overwinter. In severe cases, the entire society may die, and minor or major damage is relatively common. That is why the beehive must be fenced and not allowed access to domestic and wild animals that can do great damage. Also, it is very dangerous if the hives with beehives are located next to a fence or under trees that are pruned on cold winter days, so the cut branches fall on the hives. It can also cause bees to fall out of the ball.

Njega pčela

During heavy snowfalls and melting and freezing of snow, the flight may close, which, if it lasts longer, can cause suffocation of the bee colony. Therefore, in summer, they should be inspected periodically and, if necessary, carefully cleaned of snow, ice and dead bees. On that occasion, strict care should be taken not to shake or move the hive, so that the bees do not fall from the ball to the bottom board and die there. Snow should not be removed from the roof of the hive, because it would only disturb the bees, and it is otherwise a good heat insulator, it should only be removed to expand capacity, put in order hives, nuclei and substrates that are in reserve, construction and wiring frames , procurement of necessary accessories and reproduction material, primarily sugar, etc.

In the winter, also, beekeeping literature should be studied more intensively, primarily books and magazines, and everything that is considered useful for more successful beekeeping in the coming period should be recorded in a special notebook. They are very useful lecturers, seminars, conferences, congresses, exhibitions and fairs, as well as other similar events in beekeeping, because it is quite certain that on that occasion something will be learned and applied in beekeeping next year. There is no need to spare time and money for this, because it will pay off.