Beekeeper Calendar Series: Winter

Thursday 11 January 2024

Have you ever wondered what beekeepers do during the winter months? Most often there is very little to be done within the hive once winter starts. That being said, beekeepers spend a significant amount of time planning and preparing for the upcoming spring. Beekeepers also know they must respect the natural rhythms of their colonies during the colder months. Read this week’s blog, along with those that will follow in this series, to learn more about a beekeeper’s calendar during each season.

Beekeeper’s Calendar Series: Winter

The onset of the winter beekeeping season starts after hives have been wrapped and insulated. If all preparation was done well, beekeepers have very little practical hive management to do during the winter months. It is good practice to occasionally check hives, especially after severe weather events to address any potential damage. Other than that, beekeepers should not disturb the winter cluster by opening the hive. This practice acknowledges the importance of allowing the bees to maintain their tightly knit cluster, which serves as a crucial mechanism for conserving warmth and energy during the colder months. Bees will remain clustered throughout the winter but will leave the hive for cleansing flights on warmer days.


There is often a question of whether snow should be removed from hives throughout the winter. Overall, snow removal is deemed unnecessary as snow will provide additional insulation, contributing to the hive’s thermal regulation. It is important that the top entrance remains unobstructed by snow, thereby facilitating proper airflow, but the use of a telescoping cover should address this concern.

One other thing beekeepers should periodically check for is damage caused by skunks and raccoons. Skunks and raccoons start breeding in late winter. They may start ripping plastic and pulling out entrance reducers. Beekeepers should check hives and fix if necessary.

So, what are beekeepers busy doing during the winter months? Mostly, winter is when beekeepers plan for the upcoming spring. Now is the time to build and repair beekeeping equipment. Also, to be ready for spring, beekeepers should order any wooden ware or bees they will need. Ordering these items during winter ensures that beekeepers have everything they need on hand when the spring season commences. Overall, winter serves as a crucial planning and preparation period, allowing beekeepers to potentially grow their operation in the upcoming season.

The other important thing beekeepers will spend their offseason doing is attending meetings, taking various beekeeping courses, and reading new research. All of these things help keep beekeepers educated on what is happening in the industry, as well as knowledgeable about the latest advancements in beekeeping and integrate new, evidence-based, approaches into their own practices.

Beekeepers should attend provincial beekeeping associations annual general meetings. Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick all have annual general meetings during the months of January to March. Atlantic beekeepers should consider attending ATTTA’s virtual winter workshop series. All Canadian beekeepers can attend the BeeTech conference presented by the Canadian Honey Council and the Canadian Association for Professional Apiculturists this February. Finally, Atlantic beekeepers should consider enrolling in the Fundamentals of Beekeeping course presented by ATTTA and Dalhousie Extended Learning, which will start this March.

The winter months may appear quiet within the hives, but for beekeepers, these months are still a crucial part in the beekeeper calendar. This time is needed to plan for the upcoming season, and, even during the coldest months of the year, beekeepers still need to check that the hives look good externally. Additionally, winter is a season for education and growth for beekeepers. Engaging in meetings, enrolling in courses, and reading academic research, helps keep beekeepers educated and engaged with their industry. Stay tuned for more insights into a beekeeper's calendar throughout each season in future blogs from ATTTA.

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