The Hive is Alive ?
Winter survival is tough for all creatures in Minnesota. For honey bees to survive they need food, a large and healthy colony, and a hive that is well ventilated yet offers protection from the winter. Honeybees that are genetically inclined to be winter hardy for the local conditions helps too. When the bitter cold came to Blaine in late Fall, Dan did not dare open up the hive to check for adequate honey stores. No honey was removed from this hive and it was assumed they had plenty. Opening the hive would break the seal the hive cracks the bees created using propolis. Propolis is a material that bees make from tree resin and a small amount of honey. Dan experimented with using hay as natural insulation, and a grill cover to keep the hay from being saturated by water. Honeybees often die in winter from condensation forming on the bottom of the lid, and dripping back down on the bees. Ventilation and a top board designed to absorb condensation was used to combat this. The bees keep warm by forming a cluster or ball around the queen. They essentially create warmth through muscle movement. On one of the coldest nights of the Winter Dan took a thermal image which appears to be of the cluster and confirmed the hive is alive! It seems that honeybee winter survival can be a 50/50 proposition. We will have to wait until warmer weather to find out if our bees will make it.