Bee Happy: Getting the hives ready for the winter

Felecia Chavez

This year was challenging, the weather and number of swarms we were called on to relocate were numerous. There is something really special when you go out, find a swarm, get all the bees, to include the queen (the most important part), bring them home and introduce them to their new home (we always have empty hive boxes available, just in case, you never know when the need will arise) follow their progress and see how strong they become. We relocated quite a few and are happy to say all but one found they liked their new home and neighborhood, that one apparently didn’t like their new digs and decided to swarm, I hope they found a new home.

During the spring, we move a number of hives to farms within the county and for the first time we had a few hives set out at Windmill Heights Garden Center, we were very pleased that they all did very well.

Another season has come and now it’s time to get the hives ready to take on winter.

We are now getting ready to bring all of our hives back to the bee yard. It makes it much easier to keep track of the hives and to feed them during the winter months if necessary. Bringing them back to the bee yard also gives us a chance to make sure that they will survive the winter.

Because of my shop I have had the opportunity to meet so many beekeepers that stop in to chat, check out the observation hive, and share war stories. I’ve also had people come in to find out how they can become beekeepers, that makes my heart happy. As I’ve stated before, I am by no means someone that knows everything about bees, but the people I have been fortunate to have met along this journey have imparted their knowledge and wisdom and have given me the tools to learn even more, and for that I am grateful.

When talking to people that don’t really know too much about bees, honey, and the inner workings of a beehive they do not realize how and what the bees do to make a hive a productive, viable home. People always ask what happens to the dead bees that die in the hive? The undertaker or sanitation bees take them away by carrying them outside and dropping them far enough away from the hive. Security bees make sure that no other bee or insect that does not carry the pheromones of the queen is not allowed entry, and they will fight to the death to keep them out. There are heater bees that crawl inside an empty cell and keep those 70-80 cells in the surrounding area warm, they are also able to regulate the heat of individual cells, their body heat can reach 111 degrees Fahrenheit. When born they are fully grown and each bee has a job and instinctively know what that is.

Bees are truly phenomenal creatures, so when people ask me, why beekeeping? My answer is, why not? For those that are interested in becoming beekeepers I cannot stress how important it is to take a class. The Northern Piedmont Beekeepers Association can be contacted at for more information, as well as Virginia Bee Supply, 101 W. Marshall St. Remington, VA 22734. Both are very knowledgeable and can answer any questions you may have about becoming a beekeeper.