With all feeding done, it is time to take a rest! But.... not quite. Remember to place two bricks on top of the hive roof or fasten a strong rope around the hive in case of any strong winds. A colony will over-winter much better if it remains dry and its hive is of sound construction. It will also help if it is tilted forwards slightly so that any moisture will drain out through the entrance [Only applicable if you are using solid floors – Ed.]. A ray of midday sun will help to keep the hive dry and encourage the bee cluster to move to new supplies of stores.
A WBC hive will keep drier in winter, but will warm up more slowly than a single-walled hive. It is important that the bees are able to take cleansing flights as often as possible during the winter. This prevents the bees from soiling the combs, which will in turn prevent over-consumption of stores and the build up of Nosema spores.
Do not forget that if the colony has been over-wintered with fewer stores than recommended, then in early march it should be fed thick syrup (not candy) in a contact feeder.
Fit proper mouse guards, not pieces of queen excluder, since the latter have the disadvantage of knocking the pollen loads off the returning bees. At this time of years, the bees cannot afford to waste pollen loads.
Most important, have you removed any Varroacide strips or containers?
I also give the tops of the frames a quick scrape and raise the crown boards above the brood chamber using a match stick at each corner. This helps ventilation which reduces condensation.
Extractor and feeders
These should be washed out, even if the bees have cleaned them up. Make sure they are thoroughly dry before storage, especially items made of metal.
Sort out surplus combs, discarding any old or dark looking ones, especially those over three years old with drone cells. Why put an old comb back when you can give a new sheet of foundation? What's more, wax moth larvae prefer old combs, particularly if they are stored in a warm place.
Any dark combs should be rendered down, especially if there has been any brood in them. Try and keep your surplus honey clean. Keep super and brood combs apart, and stack them neatly in a cool, dry place. Put a queen excluder between every three or four supers to minimise any mouse damage – one mouse can make an awful mess. A teaspoonful of PDB (paradichlorobenzene) can be placed on a sheet of paper inside the stack and will control the larvae of the wax moth. In the spring, air the combs and boxes before putting them on hives, to get rid of the odour.
Place all foundation in a sealed plastic bag and put it away in a place that will not be touched as it can become brittle, especially in cold weather. It is then easily broken.
Brood Boxes, Crown Boards, Frames...
Give everything a good scrape with the hive tool to get rid of the bits of wax and propolis, and then wash or scorch with a blow lamp. It is surprising where the wax moth larvae hide. Use the blow lamp on the queen excluder to get rid of all those pieces of wax inside the slots – but don't use a blow lamp on plastic queen excluder! All wax can be rendered down after cleaning up.
Make all repairs now rather than waiting until spring, and if you put any wood preservative on your hives and equipment, do that now, too. It will give it a good chance to soak in. I also give my hives a coat of varnish, which gives them greater resistance to knocks and general wear and tear.
Store honey in a clean, dry, and cool place away from pets. Don't forget that it is a food product! I store mine in 14kg plastic buckets and then bottle as required.
Lastly, before you retire indoors have a check around the apiary to see whether any undergrowth needs clearing away around the hives so that each hive has good air circulation.