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Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1014: Wintering Bees in Cellars
Author: Demuth, George S., Phillips, Everett Franklin
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1014: Wintering Bees in Cellars" ***

                       WINTERING BEES IN CELLARS

                     E. F. PHILLIPS, Apiculturist


                GEORGE S. DEMUTH, Apicultural Assistant

                         Bureau of Entomology



              Contribution from the Bureau of Entomology

                          L. O. HOWARD. Chief

                   Washington, D. C. September, 1918

Show this bulletin to a neighbor. Additional copies may be obtained
free from the Division of Publications, United States Department of


RESULTS from wintering bees in a cellar are excellent when conditions
in the cellar are such as to keep the bees from wearing themselves
out by excessive activity. Cellar wintering is practicable where the
average outdoor temperature during the winter months is as low as 25°
F. A map is given (p. 3) so that the beekeeper may know whether this
method is advisable in his locality.

The cellar should be arranged so that the ceiling is below the frost
line, and so that the ceiling and side walls are thoroughly protected
at all points. The cellar should be kept so that the lowest temperature
within the hives is at least 52° F. At this temperature there will be
little need of special ventilating arrangements. There should be no
condensation of moisture within the hives, and the cellar should be
well drained.

Bees should be put into the cellar after a good flight in late
November, or earlier in the more northern localities. They should be
removed when fresh pollen and nectar are available, usually about the
last of March.

Soon after the hives are placed on their summer stands, each colony
should be given additional stores and room for the development of a
large quantity of brood.

It is important that none of the factors of good wintering be omitted.
Several tests are given in this bulletin so that the beekeeper may
determine whether his cellar is a satisfactory place for wintering




  Cellar wintering versus outdoor wintering                 3

  Where is cellar wintering advisable                       4

  Essentials to success                                     5

  Necessity of strong colonies in the fall                  5

  Winter stores                                             6

  Arrangement of the apiary                                 7

  The bee cellar                                            7

  Putting the bees into the cellar                         12

  Maintenance of the cellar during the winter              13

  Removal of the bees from the cellar                      17

  Providing breeding room and stores in the spring         19

  Measures of success in cellar wintering                  20


Bees in the more northern parts of the United States for many years
have been placed by some of the best beekeepers in cellars or special
repositories during the coldest parts of the winter. There has been a
growing feeling, however, that if outdoor wintering is practicable, in
most cases it gives better results, and there has been a decided change
from cellar wintering to outdoor wintering within the past decade. The
difficulty seems to be that the methods of cellar wintering practiced
have not been satisfactory and it seems probable that if as much
attention had been given, to the perfection of the methods of cellar
wintering as has been given to an improvement of the methods of outdoor
wintering, there would not have been as great a change to the outdoor
methods as has taken place.

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Map of the United States showing regions where
cellar wintering is practicable, based on the average temperature of
January. From data furnished by the United States Weather Bureau.]

The placing of bees in a cellar is only another way of putting
insulation about the hives, the only difference being that in the
cellar all of the hives are protected alike and the protection is
placed about the apiary instead of around hives in groups or singly.
It follows that the principles which apply to successful outdoor
wintering apply equally to the protection of the bees in the cellar.
It is urged, therefore, that before attempting to winter bees in the
cellar, the beekeeper study the bulletins[1] of the department in which
these principles are set forth.

[1] Department Bulletin 93, The Temperature of the Honeybee Cluster In
Winter. Farmers' Bulletin 695, Outdoor Wintering of Bees.


Before deciding whether or not the bees are to be wintered in a cellar,
several factors should be considered, the chief of these being (1) the
winter climate, (2) the kind of winter stores, and (3) the location of
the apiary as regards wind protection.


In any locality where the average temperature of the winter months
falls below 25° F. (zone 1) cellar wintering may be practiced with
profit, and in localities where the average temperature of these
months falls as low as 15° F. (zone 2) cellar wintering is much to
be preferred. Figure 1 shows the boundaries of these zones for the
United States for the month of January, which may be taken as typical
of the winter months. It will be noted that these zones do not follow
parallels of latitude. As was pointed out in the bulletin of the
department on outdoor wintering,[2] it is quite possible to protect
bees in zone 1 sufficiently to winter them outdoors, but if a proper
cellar is provided, if conditions within the cellar are correct, and if
the stores are good and the colonies are strong, just as good results
may be obtained from cellar wintering.

[2] Farmers' Bulletin 1012, Preparation of Bees for Outdoor Wintering.

In zone 1 the average temperature of the outside air during the mouth
of January is 25° F., or lower in the more northern parts of the zone.
This means that in colonies wintered outdoors the bees are compelled
to overcome this degree of cold at all times during the coldest part
of the winter. If they are so well packed that the heat which they
generate is lost slowly, they are able to generate sufficient heat to
make the interior of the hive warm enough to allow them to break their
cluster as is necessary. In zone 2, however, the bees will be compelled
to generate heat sufficient to overcome the more severe cold of that
zone, and this calls for the expenditure by the bees of so much more
food and vitality that it is more economical to put them in a good
cellar during the months of the most severe cold, and cellar wintering
is therefore preferable.


In localities where the stores for the bees gathered during the latter
part of the summer are not of the first quality, it is safer to winter
the bees outdoors. This is a large factor in the placing of the zones
shown in figure 1, for it is quite common in the region south of zone 1
for the full honey to be of inferior quality. It is extremely fortunate
that in both of the zones shown the stores available in winter are
usually of the finest quality. As will be shown later, it is highly
important that the beekeeper pay special attention to the character of
the stores in the hive at the beginning of the winter, and if they are
not as good as they should be, this deficiency should be corrected.


In zone 1, if the apiary is so badly located that the winter winds are
severe, the beekeeper will do well to winter in a cellar, although,
as will be shown later, it is not best to choose such a site for the
apiary even during the rest of the year.


As in the case of outdoor wintering, the essentials to success in
caring for a normal colony of bees from the end of one season's
honey-flow to the beginning of the next lie in providing three things
in abundance: (1) Stores of good quality, (2) protection from wind
and cold, and (3) room for the rearing of brood at appropriate times.
These factors must not be lacking at the right times, and if any one
is omitted it may prevent the bees from gathering the crop of the
following season. These three factors do not apply equally throughout
the period of relative inactivity, but as certainly as any one of them
is decreased, just so certainly will the crop of the following year be

In practicing cellar wintering it is unnecessary to leave so much honey
with the bees during the time that they are in the cellar, and it is
not necessary during that period to leave room for the rearing of
brood. During the coldest part of the winter the bees need especially
protection from cold and wind, although enough good stores must be in
the hive to keep them through that period in good condition. Probably
a large part of the failure of beekeepers in practicing cellar
wintering comes from the fact that before and after the bees are in
the cellar the important factors of stores and breeding room have not
been adequately supplied. Before the bees are put into the cellar they
must have room for breeding and stores in abundance, and after they
are taken out these two factors must be present in greatly increased


As in the case of wintering outdoors, it is wasteful to attempt to
winter weak colonies. It is difficult to set standards of colony
strength at this season, but it is unwise to attempt to winter
colonies that are not strong enough to have brood sufficient to fill
three or four Langstroth frames two months before the first killing
frost. If the colonies in the apiary are not of the proper strength,
it is wise to unite until the proper strength is reached. Any uniting
should be done before the close of brood-rearing.

It is of the greatest importance that every colony have a good queen in
order that brood-rearing may continue in the fall and may then again
proceed rapidly in the spring. Usually it is best to requeen at least
every two years, but if good wintering is practiced the colonies will
come out of winter quarters so strong and will build up so rapidly
in the spring that the queens will soon wear out, making it safer to
requeen every year. To get the best results from requeening, all young
queens should be introduced so that they begin to lay about two months
before the first killing frost.


The stores given to the bees from the end of one season to the
beginning of the next are of the first importance. It is necessary to
consider both the quality and the quantity of these stores.


As has been stated, it is fortunate that in both of the zones where
cellar wintering is or might be practiced the natural stores usually
are good. Honeys such as those from white and alsike clovers, sweet
clover, alfalfa, wild raspberry, buckwheat, and willowherb are fine
stores for winter, while honeys from basswood, heartsease (smart-weed),
asters, goldenrod, and most of the other fall flowers are less
desirable. It is especially important during the period when the
bees are in the cellar that the stores shall be of the very finest
quality, and it is therefore the practice of many good beekeepers to
feed each colony 5 pounds or more of sirup made of granulated sugar
Into in the fall, after all brood-rearing has ceased. This insures that
the bees will have for their use, during the period of confinement in
the cellar, stores which will not bring about the condition known as
dysentery. In general it may be stated that honeys from mixed sources
and dark honeys, except buckwheat, are to be avoided. Honeydew honeys
are highly injurious and in all cases where such stores are present
granulated sugar sirup should be fed.


From the end of one honey season to the beginning of the next a good
colony of bees will need fully 45 pounds of honey. When the bees are
wintered in the cellar, it is usual not to have all of this honey in
the one hive body in which they are wintered. It is a good practice
to have at least 20 pounds within this hive, although 15 pounds will
be safe. It is absolutely imperative, however, that the remainder of
the 45 pounds shall be available to be given to the bees soon after,
they are taken from the cellar. The most common cause of poor colonies
in the spring is poverty, directly due to neglect on the part of the
beekeeper. A good beekeeper sees to it that at no time when brood is
being reared do his bees have less than 15 pounds of stores in the
hive, and the full amount of 45 pounds often will all be used, and is
always needed if the colonies are to come to full strength on time
for the gathering of the full crop. This amount is always augmented
by honey from spring flowers, for 45 pounds of honey is not enough to
bring a colony to full strength in time for the main honey-flow.


Where bees are wintered in cellars the particular arrangement of the
hives in the apiary is not so important a problem as where they are
wintered on their summer stands, yet there are certain important
considerations in the arrangement of the entire apiary which should be
kept in mind.


It is important that a place be chosen where the bees will be protected
from cold winds in the spring after they are taken from the cellar
and again in the fall before they are taken to the cellar. A grove of
trees or an adjacent hill usually offers the best protection, or it
is possible to make an artificial windbreak such as a high fence. A
natural windbreak usually is better, for it is more extensive in most
cases. Too much reliance should not be placed in buildings, for often
they merely divert the wind slightly and may make conditions worse. A
fence made of close boards usually is unsatisfactory, for it causes


To carry colonies of bees a long distance from the apiary to the cellar
is not an easy task, even though the hives be light at that time of the
year. It is best, therefore, that the apiary be located not more than
50 yards from the cellar, and even this distance is objectionable. If a
special cellar is built for the bees, the apiary should be so located
that the cellar may be built immediately adjacent. If the bees are to
be wintered in the cellar under the beekeeper's residence, the apiary
should be located as near as possible to the cellar door.


In order that the beekeeper may have reason to expect success in cellar
wintering, it is imperative that he give careful consideration to
the construction of the bee cellar. There has been a tendency among
beekeepers greatly to overestimate the value of their own cellars, and
especially to assume that the conditions which they are able to get in
their cellars are exactly correct.


Some of the best bee cellars are those under the residences of
beekeepers, and in general such a cellar is better than one built
especially for cellar wintering. This is because the temperature of
such a cellar usually is quite a little higher than that in a specially
constructed repository. The best results in cellar wintering have been
obtained in cellars under residences which are heated by furnaces, thus
having a higher cellar temperature. In such a cellar provision must
be made for partitioning off a space where the bees will be located
so that there is no light or other disturbing factor during the time
of their confinement. Since a cellar temperature about 50° F. is
desirable, it is well to choose a part of the cellar through which some
of the furnace pipes run, and if this results in too high a temperature
these pipes may be insulated somewhat. It is best to choose a part of
the cellar where there are no windows and where the outside walls are
thoroughly protected to the top, either by a bank of soil or in some
other fashion. This will result in a more equable temperature than
is possible in a cellar exposed to sudden changes of temperature on
the outside walls, for even a stone wall 18 inches thick will allow a
considerable amount of heat to escape. In a cellar under a residence
there will be abundant ventilation without any special provision
being made for this. A test of the value of such a cellar is the even
temperature which may be obtained, as will be discussed later.


If properly constructed and protected, a special cellar or cave for the
bees gives the best possible results in wintering, yet few such cellars
have been built, for the reason that most beekeepers have omitted some
vitally important factors. The usual fault is in having too great a
variation in temperature and in giving excessive ventilation, which in
turn causes fluctuations in temperature.


To provide good drainage and adequate ventilation for the bee cellar
without making any special ventilators, it is desirable to build it in
a sandy hillside. If it is possible to choose a place for the cellar
where the snow drifts deeply, this will afford a valuable addition
to the insulation of the cellar. If the cellar is on level ground,
drifting of snow may be increased by the proper building of open
fences, such as are used to prevent drifting over railway tracks.

If it is impossible to utilize a sandy hillside, it will be necessary
to build walls and a floor for the cellar and to make adequate
provision for the drainage of the cellar. The hillside cellar has, the
great advantage of having easy drainage.


If the bees are kept in apiaries of perhaps 100 colonies and if a
cellar is built for each apiary, then it is possible to build a cellar
of just the right capacity. If a central cellar is built for all the
apiaries and the bees in outapiaries are brought into the home apiary
for winter, the beekeeper will wish to build the cellar sufficiently
large for future expansion of his business, and beekeepers are finding
out, that they can keep many more colonies of bees than they formerly
thought possible. Perhaps the better plan is to have a cellar in each

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--Interior of bee cellar with hives In piles of
four. Insulation above the ceiling is not shown.]

The usual practice is to allow 1-1/2 to 2 square feet of floor surface
for each colony, on the assumption that the colonies will be placed in
piles of four (fig. 2). It is not desirable to pile hives higher than
this, if the cellar roof is 6-1/2 feet high in the clear, and it is
difficult to lift heavy hives any higher than the number specified. For
an apiary of 100 colonies, it will be found desirable to have a cellar
10 feet wide and from 15 to 20 feet long, clear of the inner walls. If
one is just getting a start in beekeeping he should build his cellar on
the assumption that later he will increase the number of his colonies,
and should allow for this, for it is better to have the cellar too
large than too small.


It has been claimed by many beekeepers that concrete walls and floor
are not desirable, yet if the cellar is properly insulated there is no
better material. If the cellar is built in a hillside of sandy soil,
wooden sides will be satisfactory and no floor other than the soil need
be provided. In such soil the drainage is good and the only function
of the side walls is to hold the sides up to prevent caving in. In a
moist soil a concrete floor and walls should be built, and the concrete
should be waterproof. Under no circumstances should any of the side
walls below the ceiling be exposed above ground.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--Diagram of bee cellar. Clearance 6-1/2 feet,
ceiling 2-1/2 feet below ground level, packed with about 11 feet of


The ceiling of the cellar should be below ground level sufficiently to
bring it below the level of frost. For the regions where bees should be
wintered in cellars this usually will be at least 2-1/2 feet below the
level of the ground (fig. 3). The ceiling should be 6-1/2 feet above
the floor, just sufficiently high to permit a tall man to work with
comfort. If the ceiling is higher it will result usually in too low a
temperature at the floor. The ceiling then should be covered completely
on top with some insulating material, such as sawdust, and if sawdust
is used it should be piled on about 1-1/2 feet thick. Unless about this
amount of protection is given on the ceiling it will be impossible to
get the right cellar temperature during the coldest part of the winter.
If the cellar is built in a sandy soil, it is possible to use the soil
as a cover for the ceiling, in which event about 3 feet of soil should
be placed over the inner roof of the cellar. The entire insulating
material, of whatever kind used, should then be protected from rain
and snow by having a roof over it. This roof should project at least
2 feet, preferably more, beyond the outside of the cellar wall, and
provision should be made for currying off the water from the roof.

In case the beekeeper desires to build an apiary house over the bee,
cellar, as is done frequently, he must provide a floor for this house
at least at ground level, and he can not successfully use the ceiling
of the cellar as the floor of the upper house. There is no objection to
building a house above the cellar if adequate protection is given the
cellar, but it must not be assumed that the house offers any material
insulation to the cellar, for in most cases these houses are not heated
in the winter. The relation of the house floor to the ceiling of the
cellar is shown in figure 3.


Frequently the entrance is a weak spot in the insulation of the cellar,
and it is useless to protect the roof and sides unless care is used in
the building of the entrance. If the entrance is at the end or one side
of the cellar, it will be necessary to build a sort of vestibule with
double doors so that the heat of the cellar will not be lost rapidly.
The heavier and thicker these doors, the better for the bees.

The best type of vestibule is a long, narrow passage lending into the
hillside, and it should be closed by doors at both the inside and
outside ends. If possible the vestibule should be built and protected
so that the temperature within the vestibule will never fall below
freezing. In the building of the vestibule, also, the beekeeper should
consider the ease with which the bees may be carried in and out of the


As has been mentioned previously, the cellar must be well drained,
either by natural or by artificial means. No stagnant water should be
allowed to remain in the cellar, although at the higher temperatures
of the best cellars this does less harm than it does in cellars that
are too cold. Some beekeepers have advocated having a stream of water
flowing through the cellar, and this will do no harm in warm cellars,
and it may serve to assist somewhat in maintaining an even temperature.


One of the most serious faults of bee cellars is in providing for too
much ventilation, resulting in great fluctuations in temperature. In a
cellar which maintains a temperature of 50° F. or more there is little
need for ventilation, for the Was then need little oxygen and only a
small amount of carbon dioxide is given off. Other things being equal,
the colder the cellar, the greater the need of ventilation. If poor
stores are in the hives, the bees will need more ventilation than will
be desirable when good stores are used. In a warm cellar in a sandy
hillside no ventilating shaft need be built.

In any event, one shaft 6 inches square running through the ceiling of
the cellar to the outside will be sufficient for any cellar that is fit
for the wintering of bees. During the coldest part of the winter the
interchange of air between the inside of the cellar and the outside
will be materially increased by the great difference in temperature and
this one ventilator may be entirely or nearly closed. During the milder
weather of the fall and spring this amount of ventilation will do no
harm. The top of the ventilating shaft, which should extend at least
6 feet above the outer roof, may be painted black in order to induce
greater movement of air when the sun shines. The shaft should be so
arranged that it does not admit light to the cellar.


Before the bees are carried into the cellar it should be well aired
and cleaned, and it will be well to keep it open for several days
beforehand. No debris or refuse should be left in the cellar when the
bees are taken in.


For zone 1 (fig. 1) it is usually desirable to wait until about the
middle of November before putting the bees into winter quarters. If one
could know exactly when the bees would have the last opportunity for a
cleansing flight, they would be put into the cellar just after that,
but we can not always be sure that there will be suitable weather for
such flight in late November, and there is, therefore, considerable
doubt every year as to just the right time to put the bees away.
Frequently it happens that the weather is suitable for a flight about
November 20, and it is best to wait until then before attempting to put
the bees in the cellar. The flight of only a few bees from the hive
should not be construed as a cleansing flight. In this connection it is
highly desirable that the beekeeper keep a careful watch of the weather
maps daily, so that he may know at all times about what weather may be
expected for a few days in advance. For the beekeeper's purpose the
daily forecasts published in newspapers are scarcely enough; and if no
daily weather maps are convenient near by, it will repay the beekeeper
well to subscribe for them. They are valuable not only at the time of
putting the bees into the cellar but at many other times of the year.

Soon after a period when the barometric pressure has been low, bringing
high temperatures suitable for flights (at least 60° F.), there usually
will be a period when the barometric pressure is high, bringing lower,
temperatures. At the shifting from low to high barometric pressure
there is frequently a time when it is cloudy. This is a fine time to
put the bees into the cellar. These periods of high and low barometric
pressure follow each other with rather marked regularity in the
fall, and it is rather safe to assume that just at the end of the
well-defined low pressure which next follows after November 15 is the
best time to put the bees into the cellar. It is better to put the
bees in the cellar a week or so before the last opportunity for flight
than to put them in after exposure to cold which is not followed by a
cleansing flight.

For zone 2 it will be desirable to put the bees away a little earlier,
although the oncoming of winter is not so much earlier in the North as
one might imagine.


When one person carries the bees into the cellar the best method is to
stand at the back of the hive and grasp the bottom of the hive with
both hands. The hive is then lifted and the cover brought up against
the chest firmly, permitting the operator to walk without interference
and with a minimum of stooping. If there are cleats on the ends of the
hive bodies, those may be rested on the forearms, although with this
method there is some danger that the bottoms will drop off unless they
are stapled.

If the temperature is sufficiently low (slightly above freezing),
there will be no need of closing the entrances when the bees are being
carried in. Every care should be taken not to jar the hives more than
is absolutely necessary from the time that they are lifted until they
are in their final place in the cellar.

If more than one person is engaged in carrying in the hives, the hives
may be placed carefully on carriers with handles, and two or more of
them may be carried at one time.


The bottom hive in a pile should rest on an empty hive body or some
other such support of about that size (figs. 2 and 3). The hives then
should be placed one on top of the other until they are four high.
It is best by far to put each pile of four hives about 6 inches from
adjacent piles, so that in handling the hives on one pile there is no
disturbance of bees in other piles. Allowance is made for this space
between the piles of hives in the estimate of the floor space needed
for each colony (p. 9).


If the cellar is properly constructed it will need little if any
care during the time that the bees are inside. It is only the poor
bee cellar which requires constant attention to prevent changes in


There has been much discussion as to the best temperature of the cellar
during the winter. Commonly it is stated that a temperature of 40° to
45° F. is best, but this is colder than usually is best for the finest
results. A temperature below 40° F. is invariably bad for the bees, and
a cellar in which the temperature goes as low as freezing is not a fit
place for bees.

It has been found by the authors that bees do the least amount of work
when the temperature of the air immediately surrounding them (inside
the hive) stands at 57° F. This is, therefore, the temperature which
the beekeeper should bear in mind, rather than to lay too much stress
on the temperature of the cellar itself. The place for a thermometer
in the bee cellar is inside the entrance of a good colony where it may
be read easily by simply pulling it out. A chemical thermometer is
best for this purpose, and it should register 52° F. or more inside
the hive entrance. In order to have the right temperature within the
hive it usually will be best to have the temperature of the cellar at
about 50° F. or slightly higher. As will be shown later, however, it is
quite possible to have the right temperature within the hive when the
temperature of the cellar is a few degrees lower than that stated.

If the beekeeper will pay attention to the temperature of the interior
of the hive he will find that in colder cellars it is desirable to give
the hives some insulation to conserve the heat generated by the bees
in much the same way that this heat is conserved when bees are packed
outdoors, although the amount of protection will be much less. In a
cellar where the temperature falls to 45° F. it will be found best
to have the covers of the hives sealed on tightly and the entrances
reduced to 3/8 inch by 2 inches. In a cellar with a temperature of 50°
F. or more the entrances may be left open the full width of the hive.
If there is a tendency for the temperature to fall to 45° F. or less,
the tops of the hives may be protected by cushions of chaff or other
materials placed at least on the top of the uppermost hives, for each
of the lower three hives is protected somewhat by the one above it.

It will be impossible to maintain the temperatures recommended unless
the cellar is built in the way described, or in some other way by which
the cellar is equally well insulated. It is impossible to maintain an
equable and high temperature in a cellar the walls and ceiling of which
are exposed to the outside air.


If the proper temperature is maintained in the cellar there will be
little need of ventilation, for in almost all cases there will be
sufficient interchange of air to keep the bees in good condition.
If the temperature is as low as 45° F., a little ventilation will be
needed, although most of the bee cellars that have been built have
had too much ventilation, and as a result it has been impossible
to maintain a correct temperature within them. In cold weather the
tendency toward an interchange of air is greatest, and at such times
the ventilators may be entirely closed. In mild weather it makes no
difference if large ventilators are open, unless this results in too
great a rise in temperature.

In a well-insulated cellar it should not be necessary to ventilate at
night at the approach of spring to cool the air inside, for the bees
will not get so warm from their own activity as will bees in a cellar
that is or has been too cold. The greatest problem in most cellars is
to maintain the right temperature during the spring just before the
bees are to be removed. The trouble is that in most cellars--those
which are too cold in winter--the bees generate heat constantly
during the winter and as a result have an accumulation of feces in
the intestines, resulting in a condition known as dysentery. For this
reason they become excited easily, and beekeepers have thought it
necessary to ventilate the cellar at night freely in order to remedy
this trouble. The proper method, of course, is to prevent it by keeping
the temperature higher during the winter, but if the temperature has
fallen too low during the winter ventilation at night seems to help
somewhat. It is safe, however, to say that a cellar in which this
happens is not satisfactory as a place to keep bees during the winter,
and steps should be taken to insulate it more completely before bees
are put into it again. If the bees are wintering on stores that are
not of the best quality the tendency to accumulate feces will be far
greater, even with the right temperatures inside the hives, and if
there is dysentery it may be relieved somewhat by ventilation, although
this is simply reducing a symptom and is not removing the cause of the


Since bees in a good cellar require little ventilation, practically no
attention need be paid to this subject if the cellar has been built in
the way advised. If the temperature of the cellar tends to fall too
low, it is advisable to reduce the entrances of the hives, for with a
greater difference between the temperatures within and outside the hive
the tendency for interchange of air will be correspondingly greater. In
any cellar fit for the wintering of bees it will be neither necessary
nor desirable to ventilate the hives at the top, as sometimes has been

The ventilation of the hive within the cellar is not so much for the
elimination of foul air as for the escape of moisture, and therefore
the amount of ventilation needed for the hive depends upon the
humidity of the air within the cellar. If the temperature of the cellar
is kept high enough there will be no condensation of moisture within
the hive, and if water is ever observed on the covers of the hives
it is conclusive proof that the cellar is too cold for the bees. In
a cellar so cold that condensed moisture shows on the bottoms of the
hives stops should be taken at once to raise the temperature.

Various attempts have been made in the past to provide for the cellar
fresh air which has been warmed somewhat before entry. The most common
method is to have the air pass through tiles under ground for perhaps
100 feet before it enters the cellar. In general, it may be said that
none of these devices has been worth the trouble and expense involved
and none of them has served the purpose for which it was intended. It
has been proposed also to ventilate the bee cellar by wind pressure.
The devices which have been made for such ventilation will function
only when there is considerable wind and then only when the wind is in
the right quarter; therefore they are not at all to be recommended. By
far the best plan is simply to build the bee cellar correctly, for,
then little ventilation will be needed.


In even the best of cellars there will be some dead bees on the
floor, and those may be cleaned up once or twice during the winter.
In a cellar with proper temperature there will be few dead bees until
after the middle of the winter, but the death rate increases toward the
close of the winter. If the cellar is cleaned, it should be done with
as little disturbance as possible. No bright light should be admitted
at this time, although a moderate amount seems to do little harm until
after the bees have an accumulation of feces in the intestines.


Some beekeepers have advocated removing the colonies toward the end
of the winter for a flight on some warm day and then replacing them,
on the supposition that the flight would enable the bees to stand a
longer period of confinement. It is found, however, that if bees are
disturbed, as by carrying them out, they begin brood-rearing almost
invariably, and this does more harm than the flight does good.


Work in or about the bee cellar while the bees are confined should
be done with the least possible disturbance of the bees, for often a
little handling or jarring of the hive causes sufficient excitement
to increase the temperature of the cluster to the point where
brood-rearing begins. This is true especially in late winter. It is
by far the wisest plan, therefore, to stay out of the cellar during
the winter, except on the few occasions when a little work, such as
cleaning out, makes a visit seem needed. Care should be taken not to
jar the hives or to allow light to strike the entrance. Of course, if
bees are being wintered in a cellar which has the right temperature, a
little disturbance does little or no harm, but there is no reason why
bees should be disturbed in winter and the beekeeper should not run
any risk of starting brood-rearing.



The old rule of many beekeepers is to take the bees from the cellar
when the soft maples are in bloom. This is an excellent rule in
localities where there are trees of this species. In general, in zone 1
the right time to take the bees out of the cellar is about the time of
the spring equinox (March 21).

In choosing a time for the removal of the bees, the beekeeper again
should watch the weather maps closely. He should choose a time
when a high-pressure area is just passing and at the approach of
a well-defined low-pressure area. At such a time the weather will
be cool, not permitting the bees to fly, but at the time of the
low-pressure area the weather will become warmer, allowing the good
flights, which are then badly needed.

If the bees are taken out at a time when they can fly at once--and some
beekeepers prefer this--they should be taken out in the early morning,
so that they can have a good flight before night. Bees should not be
taken from the cellar at a time when they can fly only a little, but
they should either be taken out when they can not fly at all or at a
time when they can fly freely almost at once. Bees in good condition
rarely fly freely unless the outside temperature is as high as 60° F.


When the bees are taken from the cellar and placed on their summer
positions they sometimes tend to leave the weaker, colonies and on
their return to collect in those with greater populations. This is
known as "drifting." In general, the bees tend to drift toward the
windward side of the apiary. Most frequently they join the hives that
were first set out and which have established a strong flight by the
time the neighboring colonies have first taken wing. The tendencies,
therefore, are to join flying colonies, stronger colonies, and the
end colonies in a row. The condition of the bees plays a large part
in drifting, for if the bees are badly in need of a flight because of
dysentery they go at once into the air without properly marking the
location of their hive, and therefore are not able to find it when they

To prevent drifting, it is best to set the bees out when it is too cold
for them to fly, so that as the weather warms, permitting flight, this
will take place more naturally. It is also well to reduce the entrances
so that as the bees leave the hive their tendency to orient themselves
will be greater. It is claimed by some beekeepers that if the cellar
is well aired the night before the bees are to be removed, they will
be in better condition and will drift less, but it is not clear what
difference this can make unless the clusters are made tighter because
of lower temperatures.

Beekeepers have discussed the question whether, after removal, the bees
should be placed on the same stands occupied by them the fall before.
If the bees could remember their old location so that they would return
to it, even after an interval of four months, it would be necessary,
or at least desirable, to place each colony on the same stand which it
occupied previously. There is no evidence, however, that the memory
of the bees is so good, and it is usually the ease that the bees of a
colony will lose the memory of location within a week; therefore no
attention need be paid to this feature.


The greatest objection to wintering bees in cellars is that after they
are removed they are exposed to low temperatures. The ideal practice
would be to pack the bees after taking them out in much the same way
that bees are packed for outdoor wintering, but the work involved makes
this impracticable. There can be no doubt that protection at this
time would be beneficial. As has been pointed out, the apiary site
should be one in which the hives are well protected from wind, and it
is advantageous if the apiary grounds slope toward the south in order
that the bees may have the fullest advantage of heat from the sun. If
the bees have been wintered in the cellar in double-walled hives they
will have the advantage of some protection when they are taken from
the cellar. The beekeeper may feel safe in giving the bees all the
protection possible at the time that they are taken from the cellar,
knowing that it is impossible at this time or any other to insulate the
hive too well.

In deciding whether the hives should be packed in the spring the
beekeeper should be governed largely by the condition of the bees. If
they have wintered well they will be able to stand greater extremes of
temperature in the spring without loss, but if they have been wintered
in a cold cellar they will be greatly injured by cold weather after
they have been set out. Of course, the need of protection is determined
chiefly by the kind of weather prevailing during the first few weeks
after the bees have been taken from the cellar. In some seasons the
weather is so fine that the bees would be little benefited by packing
or other protection, but the beekeeper can not influence the weather,
and the only safe plan is so to place the bees that if the weather
does turn cold they will still be safe. Here, as everywhere else in
beekeeping, it pays to be on the safe side, so far as protecting the
bees is concerned.


After the main honey-flow is past it is usually desirable that each
colony be kept in two hive bodies of full depth. Most producers of
extracted honey do this, but too many producers of comb-honey are not
adequately supplied with hive bodies and do not give the second body.
These two hive bodies should be left with the bees at least until
brood-rearing ceases, and at this time one of them should be removed if
the bees are to be wintered in the cellar. As has been pointed out in
other bulletins of the department, if the bees are wintered outdoors
they will do better in the two hive bodies throughout the winter.

In the upper hive body will be found a considerable amount of the
honey to be used by the bees up to the time of the next honey-flow.
Usually there will be enough in the lower hive body for the bees while
they are in the cellar, especially where comb-honey is produced, but
if the lower hive body is not adequately supplied with winter stores
(perhaps 15 to 20 pounds) the beekeeper should move some of the stores.
It is also a good practice to winter the bees in the cellar in a hive
containing the full stores, except that this makes it necessary to
carry in hives weighing perhaps 80 pounds.

After the second hive bodies have been removed, if they contain honey
they should be stored in a warm, dry place, where the honey will not
be injured. If it is possible to place such hive bodies in the furnace
room of the residence, this will be found to be ideal. If no such
place is available, the beekeeper may keep these in a dry cellar or
other location where the honey will not be exposed to rapid changes
in temperature. For this purpose a place suitable for the storage of
comb-honey is desirable. It should be pointed out that the honey in
these combs should not be extracted. It will be needed for the building
up of the colonies the next spring, and to remove it is simply to
reduce the crop of the next season.

Some time within two weeks after the bees have been taken from the
cellar, depending on the weather, each colony should be provided with
its second hive body. Preferably, this should be placed underneath the
hive body in which the bees were wintered in order that the propolis
at the top of the hive may not be broken. At this time an examination
of the colonies may be made from below to see whether any of them
are queenless or require immediate attention for other reasons, but
at this season there is little that the beekeeper can do that will
help the bees other than to provide them with room for the brood and
with adequate supplies of stores. Queens should not be clipped at
this time, and usually not until settled weather has arrived. Further
spring manipulation is not necessary and the bees are better off if the
beekeeper lets them alone.

If the bees have been requeened at the proper time and if the total
amount of stores is given as indicated, it will not be worth while
to go through the bees to look for queenless colonies. The beekeeper
should see to it that at least 45 pounds of honey are provided for
each colony from the time of the last honey-flow in the fall to the
beginning of the first main honey-flow of the following season. If this
is not given in full, the beekeeper may be sure that the crop of the
following year will be reduced. This amount of honey left for the use
of the bees is a better investment for the beekeeper than money in the

It should be pointed out that the giving of a second hive body in the
spring is not simply a means of supplying additional stores, but more
than one hive body will be needed for the development of the brood. A
single 10-frame Langstroth hive is not large enough for the development
of a good colony of bees, which, before the beginning of the main honey
flow, should have brood to fill at least 12 frames.

As was stated earlier in this bulletin, a colony of bees from one
season to the next needs three things in abundance--room for the
development of the brood, stores of good quality, and protection from
wind and cold. In cellar wintering the protection is given by putting
the bees in the cellar; the room and stores must be supplied later or
the population of the colony will be reduced at the critical time of
the honey-flow. If the early sources of honey are abundant, the amount
of honey advised will not be consumed. The wise beekeeper, however,
does not gamble on the early honey-flows, but invests this honey as
life insurance for his bees.


It is often difficult for the beekeeper to know whether his bee
cellar is giving the best results, for he may not have been able to
determine from reading or the observation of other cellars whether it
is satisfactory. The writers, therefore, have attempted below to give
a few measures which the beekeeper may apply to his apiary and his
cellar, so that he may be able to decide whether his methods of cellar
wintering should be improved.

(1) During the winter a thermometer inserted in the entrance of the
hive should show a temperature of at least 52° F.

(2) There should never be any condensed moisture on the covers of the
hives, and certainly never any on the bottoms.

(3) While, the cellar should be kept dark at all times, if a candle
is held at the entrance of a hive at the end of January it should be
several seconds before any of the bees break cluster. Frequently the
cellar doors may be opened in March without disturbing the bees.

(4) There should never be many dead bees on the bottom of the hives.
The live bees should be able to push them out as they die during the
winter. The bees thus carried out will be found on the cellar floor
just below the entrances. If there are bees all over the floor, it
shows that these bees have flown from the hives--an indication of poor

(5) The bees should be quiet during the late winter. Noise at this time
indicates that the bees are disturbed by an accumulation of feces,
caused by low temperatures or poor food.

(6) If the bees were in good condition in the fall and have been
wintered well, the loss during the winter will never be more than
one-sixth of the total population of the hive. Such a loss is
excessive, however, and in a well-wintered colony it may be as low as
a hundred bees. This probably depends to a large extent on the age of
the bees which go into winter, and if the temperature is right and the
stores good there will be almost no loss of vigorous bees.

(7) The bees should not leave the hive while they are being carried
from the cellar. If they do, it indicates that they are excited by an
accumulation of feces.

(8) Before removal from the cellar there should be no spotting of the
hives from dysentery. There may be a little spotting after the bees
have had a free flight outside, but if this is small in amount it does
not indicate a serious condition.

(9) When the bees are taken from the cellar there should be no moldy
combs, for the cellar at the right temperature will be too dry for the
growth of molds.

(10) There should be no brood when the colonies are taken from the
cellar. Brood-rearing in the cellar is proof that the cellar is too
cold or that the food used by the bees is inferior.

(11) Enough brood should be in each colony at the opening of the main
honey-flow to fill completely 12 Langstroth frames.

(12) The population of the hive should not decrease appreciably after
the bees are removed from the cellar. Such a condition, known as spring
dwindling, is an indication of poor wintering. For three weeks after
the hives are set out no new bees will be emerging, but the loss of
bees during this time should be so small as not to be noticeable.


[Extracts from President Wilson's message to the Farmers' Conference at
Urbana, Ill., January 31, 1918.]

The forces that fight for freedom, the freedom of men all over the
world as well as our own, depend upon us in an extraordinary and
unexpected degree for sustenance, for the supply of the materials by
which men are to live and to fight, and it will be our glory when the
war is over that we have supplied those materials and supplied them
abundantly, and it will be all the more glory because in supplying them
we have made our supreme effort and sacrifice.

In the field of agriculture we have agencies and instrumentalities,
fortunately, such as no other government in the world can show. The
Department of Agriculture is undoubtedly the greatest practical and
scientific agricultural organization in the world. Its total annual
budget of $46,000,000 has been increased during the last four years
more than 72 per cent. It has a staff of 18,000, including a large
number, of highly trained experts, and alongside of it stands the
unique land grant colleges, which are without example elsewhere, and
the 69 State and Federal experiment stations. These colleges and
experiment stations have a total endowment of plant and equipment
of $172,000,000 and an income of more than $35,000,000 with 10,271
teachers, a resident student body of 125,000, and a vast additional
number receiving instructions at their homes. County agents, joint
officers of the Department of Agriculture and of the colleges, are
everywhere cooperating with the farmers and assisting them. The
number of extension workers under the Smith-Lever Act and under the
recent emergency legislation has grown to 5,500 men and women working
regularly in the various communities and taking to the farmer the
latest scientific and practical information. Alongside these great
public agencies stand the very effective voluntary organizations among
the farmers themselves which are more and more learning the best
methods of cooperation and the best methods of putting to practical
use the assistance derived from governmental sources. The banking
legislation of the last two or three years has given the farmers access
to the great lendable capital of the country, and it has become the
duty both of the men in charge of the Federal Reserve Banking System
and of the Farm Loan Banking System to see to it that the farmers
obtain the credit, both short term and long term, to which they are
entitled not only, but which it is imperatively necessary should
be extended to them if the present tasks of the country are to be
adequately performed. Both by direct purchase of nitrates and by the
establishment of plants to produce nitrates, the Government is doing
its utmost to assist in the problem of fertilization. The Department
of Agriculture and other agencies are actively assisting the farmers to
locate, safeguard, and secure at cost an adequate supply of sound seed.

The farmers of this country are as efficient as any other farmers
in the world. They do not produce more per acre than the farmers in
Europe. It is not necessary that they should do so. It would perhaps
be bad economy for them to attempt it. But they do produce by two to
three or four times more per man, per unit of labor and capital, than
the farmers of any European country. They are more alert and use more
labor-saving devices than any other farmers in the world. And their
response to the demands of the present emergency has been in every way
remarkable. Last spring their planting exceeded by 12,000,000 acres
the largest planting of any previous year, and the yields from the
crops were record-breaking yields. In the fall of 1917 a wheat acreage
of 42,170,000 was planted, which was 1,000,000 larger than for any
preceding year, 3,000,000 greater than the next largest, and 7,000,000
greater than the preceding five-year average.

But I ought to say to you that it is not only necessary that these
achievements should be repeated, but that they should be exceeded.
I know what this advice involves. It involves not only labor but
sacrifice, the painstaking application of every bit of scientific
knowledge and every tested practice that is available. It means the
utmost economy, even to the point where the pinch comes. It means the
kind of concentration and self-sacrifice which is involved in the
field of battle itself, where the object always looms greater than the
individual. And yet the Government will help and help in every way that
it is possible.

It was farmers from whom came the first shots at Lexington, that set
aflame the Revolution that made America free. I hope and believe that
the farmers of America will willingly and conspicuously stand by to win
this war also. The toil, the intelligence, the energy, the foresight,
the self-sacrifice, and devotion of the farmers of America will, I
believe, bring to a triumphant conclusion this great last war for the
emancipation of men from the control of arbitrary government and the
selfishness of class legislation and control, and then, when the end
has come, we may look each other in the face and be glad that we are
Americans and have had the privilege to play such a part.


[Extracts from addresses.]

The next great factor to enlist for the betterment of Agriculture
and rural life in this Nation is the business man of the town and
the city. He has not always been alive to his obligations. He has
contented himself, in too many instances, with plans to secure profit
in agricultural trade, instead of sympathetically and eagerly planning
constructive assistance. This duty, pressing in peace time, is of the
most urgent and impelling character in this crisis; and I appeal to the
bankers and business men to see that they omit no effort to familiarize
themselves with the agencies serving to aid the farmers and to promote
wise plans to secure the necessary results.

D. F. Houston, Secretary of Agriculture.

In the interest of our national development at all times and in the
interest of war efficiency just now our agriculture must be well
maintained. It should be remembered that the agricultural unit is
a small unit. There are 6,000,000 farms in this country, each an
individual unit. It is to the interest of persons who do not live on
farms, even more than to the interest of those who do live on farms,
that production shall be kept up. This means that all people, not
farmers alone, but those who live in cities as well as the farmers,
are interested in experimental and educational activities along
agricultural lines as conducted by the Federal Government and the
States. These efforts should be liberally supported.

R. A. Pearson, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture.

In a time like this no man has a moral right, whatever his fortune
may he, to employ another man to render any service of mere comfort
or convenience. When the finest young men of the United States are
in France digging ditches, sawing lumber, laying rails, and playing
with death, and when the finest young women of the United States are
scrubbing floors in hospitals, it is a sin that almost approaches the
unpardonable offense against civilization for any man or women in the
United States to engage in a wasteful or unnecessary service.

Clarence Ousley, Assistant Secretary of Agriculture.

       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Note

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