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Title: USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1012: The Preparation of Bees for Outdoor Wintering
Author: Phillips, Everett Franklin, Demuth, George S.
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. 1012: The Preparation of Bees for Outdoor Wintering" ***

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Transcriber Note

Text emphasis denote by _Italics_. Whole and fractional parts of
numbers as 35-5/8.

[Illustration: The Preparation of BEES for OUTDOOR WINTERING]

One of the most vital parts of the beekeeper's work is the preparation
of bees for outdoor wintering. No other phase of beekeeping has so
direct an influence on the honey crop of the following season.

The apiary should be located in a protected place and the colonies
should not be moved at the time of packing. Directions are given in
this bulletin for the proper arrangement of the apiary to prevent
confusion due to the shifting of hives.

The amount and character of the packing materials and the most
economical type of packing cases are discussed.

A schedule of dates for packing and unpacking the hives is presented
for all parts of the United States, and the amount and character of
winter stores are indicated.

It is important that none of the factors of good wintering be omitted,
and several tests are given so that the beekeeper may determine whether
his bees are wintering properly.

  Contribution from the Bureau of Entomology

  L. O. HOWARD, Chief

  Washington, D. C.     September, 1918


E. F. Phillips, _Apiculturist_, and George S. Demuth, _Apicultural



  The essentials to success                          3

  Necessity for strong colonies in the fall          4

  Arrangement of the apiary                          4

  Insulation of the hive                             6

  Arrangement within the hive                       11

  Winter schedule                                   14

  Winter stores                                     18

  All the factors of good wintering are needed      19

  Measures of success in wintering                  20

No problem confronting the beekeeper in most parts of the United States
is of more importance than the proper wintering of bees, yet it is one
which is sadly neglected. It is urged that before attempting to make
packing cases for the wintering of bees the beekeeper study Department
Bulletin 93, Temperature of the Honeybee Cluster in Winter, and
Farmers' Bulletin 695, Outdoor Wintering of Bees.


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 are all of the greatest importance,
and an omission of any one of them may prevent completely the gathering
of the honey crop of the following year, and if any of the factors
are given in less degree the honey crop invariably is reduced. The
importance of these essentials does not apply equally at all times
from the end of one season to the beginning of the next, but at some
time they are all vitally essential; and it is the purpose of this
bulletin to show how all three may be given in the early fall, so that,
without further handling, the colonies will come through the spring
with the maximum population. If, for example, the room for breeding is
not provided in the fall, it becomes necessary to handle the colony
early in the spring, and this may be detrimental. Similarly, it is the
practice of some beekeepers to add to the stores of the colony in the
spring, rather than to leave enough in the fall to last until new
honey comes in. This is dangerous for two reasons: Too often the stores
are not given on time or in adequate quantity, and frequently they can
not be given without exposing the colony too greatly. It is therefore
the best practice by far to provide all of these factors in the fall,
and no other methods are so safe and certain of success. By practicing
the methods here given the enormous annual loss of colonies in winter
may be almost entirely eliminated, and, what is more important, much
stronger colonies may be obtained for the early sources of honey.


A common cause of loss is through attempting to winter colonies that
are too small. It is somewhat difficult to set a standard for colony
strength at this season, but in general it may be stated that it is
unwise to attempt to winter colonies that are not strong enough to have
brood sufficient to fill three to four Langstroth frames two months
before the packing is applied. 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 at least two weeks before packing.
There is a tendency in some localities for colonies to weaken rapidly
in early fall, due to the nature of the honey-flow from fall flowers.
To some degree this may be offset by putting on the packing earlier
than otherwise would be necessary.

It is highly important that each colony have a vigorous queen in order
that brood-rearing may continue in the fall and may proceed rapidly
in the spring. With colonies such as are obtained by the methods here
described it is not desirable to keep queens more than two years and
it is preferable to requeen the entire apiary every season. To get the
best results in requeening all young queens should be introduced so
that they will begin laying two months before packing. It will be found
that queens wear out more rapidly in the unusually strong colonies
obtained by the methods of wintering here described, but every good
beekeeper realizes that it is these enormous colonies which get the
greatest crops.



It is of the greatest importance that the apiary be located where the
wind in winter is virtually eliminated. 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. It has been found
by the authors that if a wind of 20 miles an hour blows on the winter
packing cases for a few hours the temperature of the inside of the
packed hive may be greatly reduced and may even fall as low as that of
an unpacked hive. Too much reliance should not be placed in buildings
as windbreaks, for they often serve simply to divert the wind slightly
and may even make conditions worse. A fence made of close boards
usually is unsatisfactory for it causes whirls that may destroy many
colonies. A heavy blanket of snow serves to reduce the effect of the

[Illustration: Fig. 1.--Colonies of bees in summer position in groups
of four. This arrangement is advantageous whether or not the bees are
wintered in four-colony packing cases.]


In arranging the hives in an apiary it is necessary to take into
account the method of wintering to be followed. If the bees are to
be wintered in the four-colony cases to be described later the hives
should be kept in groups of four all the season (fig. 1), for if
colonies are moved more than a foot just before packing and then
moved again as they are unpacked there is a considerable amount of
"drifting"--that is, bees from some colonies join other colonies during
flight, and the result is an actual reduction of the number of colonies
and of bees in the apiary. A failure to keep the colonies properly
arranged for their winter stands during the entire summer is a common
cause of failure in using the four-colony cases. Whatever type of case
is used for outdoor wintering, the bees should occupy the same place
during the entire year.

Since the outside of the winter case is quite different an appearance
from the hives the bees often are somewhat confused. To prevent
drifting from this cause it is a good plan to set a large stake between
the two entrances on each end of the four-colony winter cases; this
will serve to help the bees in orienting themselves during flights
in winter and especially in spring. If it is possible to plant some
shrubbery among the hives it is a good plan to have the plants arranged
so that they will act as markers for the bees during these early
flights (fig. 3). They will not be amiss during the summer, and, if
properly placed, they need not interfere with movement through the
apiary during the summer's work, while they add to its attractiveness.



It is impossible to insulate bees too heavily during the winter. It
is obvious, however, that the beekeeper will not want to put on more
packing than is practically necessary. For a climate such as that of
Washington, D. C., it is found desirable to provide 4 inches of packing
underneath the hives, 6 inches on all sides, and 8 or more inches on
top. In warmer climates less will be needed, but the beekeeper must not
think that simply because he lives south of Washington he can be safe
with less packing or none at all. There are many places farther south
than Washington where more packing is needed, and there are, indeed,
few places except along the Gulf or in southern California where less
may be used if the best results are to be obtained.

For more northern localities more protection is needed. The amount
indicated for Washington has been used with success in places as cold
as northern Ohio and even in Canada, but in these places the insulation
during the coldest seasons is usually augmented by heavy snows. These
are not at hand every winter, or may be lacking during the coldest part
of the winter, and it is, therefore, wise to provide more packing,
especially on the sides and top. For a climate such as that of New York
or Wisconsin, 8 inches of good packing on the sides and 1 foot on the
top probably will be enough for good wintering every year. The amounts
recommended for the different zones of the United States are given in
Table I (p. 15).

A belief is current among many amateur beekeepers that good results may
be obtained by using hives which have 2 inches of packing built in the
sides and somewhat more on top. This amount is insufficient in winter
in all parts of the country except the southern portions of the Gulf
States. A common practice is to wrap some straw or corn fodder around
the hives, but this may do more harm than good if the wind can blow
directly through it. A covering of roofing paper with perhaps a little
paper packing underneath is practically worthless in insulating value.


There is little difference in the insulating value of the various
materials which may be obtained easily for the packing of hives in
winter. Exaggerated claims have been made by some beekeepers for such
materials as broken cork or certain commercial insulating materials,
but it is safe to say that there is not 25 per cent difference between
the poorest and the best of the available insulating materials,
provided, of course, that obviously poor things such as corn fodder
and straw be eliminated. Sawdust, fine planer shavings, forest leaves,
chaff, broken cork, and such materials may be used, the choice
depending chiefly on the availability of the materials. In general
it may be stated that the smaller and the more numerous the dead air
spaces confined in the packing, the greater will be its efficiency in
insulation. If forest leaves are used they must be gathered the year
before and stored, as the leaves fall some time after the bees should
be packed. If sawdust is used it is best not to pack it down tight, but
if forest leaves or planer shavings are employed it is essential that
they be packed in closely and that the containers be completely filled.
Broken cork, such as is used in the shipping of certain types of
grapes, is good and has the advantage that it does not hold moisture as
does sawdust. In all cases the packing should be placed in some sort of
box which will be rain-proof and thus protect the insulation from rains
and snow, for all insulating materials lose part of their efficiency
when wet.


There has been considerable discussion among beekeepers as to the value
of placing packing material below the bottom boards of the hives. This
is usually provided by placing the hives on 2 by 4 inch supports or on
racks of 4-inch material. Those who have opposed this have pointed out
that "heat rises," overlooking the fact that while warm air attempts
to rise, if this is impossible other avenues of escape of warm-air
currents may be set up. Furthermore, and more important, they have
overlooked the important fact that heat escapes from the hive not only
by convection currents but by conduction and radiation as well. In an
extensive series of experiments performed by the writers it was found
that in hives packed at the top and sides most of the heat escapes
through the bottom boards; in fact, this was so noticeable that the
packing at the top and sides never served its full purpose so long as
heat was escaping rapidly at the bottoms. It may be stated, therefore,
that so long as the bottoms are unprotected there is little insulating
value in materials piled on the top and sides beyond about 2 inches.
This amount is insufficient for most parts of the United States,
therefore bottom packing should be considered as absolutely essential
wherever bees are packed.

To get the value of bottom packing it is absolutely essential that the
entrance be reduced, but it need not be closed. In a long series of
temperature readings on hives packed for several winters, the authors
were able to keep a temperature of 50° F. on the bottom boards of
packed hives directly behind the entrance openings. Those who have
condemned bottom packing have labored under the mistaken notion that it
is impossible to prevent currents of cold air through the entrance.
This is entirely possible if the entrances are adequately reduced. The
conclusion to be drawn from the experiments performed is that unless
the bottoms of hives are well packed, the beekeeper ought not to
imagine that he has packed his hives at all well.

[Illustration: Fig. 2.--The winter packing cases used in the Bureau
of Entomology apiary: _a_, Detail of tunnel to hives. In the
specifications given in this Bulletin (p. 9) provision is made for room
for a third hive body to be added in the spring.]


There is no virtue in any special type of case, but in all types there
are a few points which must be observed. There must be provision for
abundant packing on the top, bottom, and sides, the entrances must be
small, the case must be rain-proof, and the construction of the case
should be such that it may be taken apart and put together easily.
The parts of various cases used in one series of apiaries should be
interchangeable. The authors have refrained in the past from giving
explicit directions for making a winter packing case for fear that some
beekeepers might think that there may be peculiar virtue in the case
used and recommended by the department (fig. 2). So many beekeepers,
however, have written for exact dimensions for making the case used in
the apiary of the Bureau of Entomology that it is considered best to
give these in this bulletin.

In order that protection adequate for bees in a climate such as that of
Washington may be provided, 4 inches of packing below the bottom board,
6 inches on all sides, and at least 8 inches on top are desired. There
is advantage in packing several colonies together, in order that they
may warm each other and to reduce the cost of the case and the labor of
putting it on. The bureau, therefore, has adopted the four-colony type
of case which has been much used for years in all parts of the country.
In this case, two colonies face east and two west. Provision is made
for wintering all colonies in two full-depth hive bodies.

In the following dimensions it is assumed that 13/16-inch
tongued-and-grooved lumber is used, that the 10-frame Langstroth hive
is in use, and that two hive bodies are employed for each colony, with
adequate space above the hive so that, if needed, a third hive body may
be put on before time for the removal of the packing. In this packing
case the sides overlap the ends. For hives of other sizes the lumber
must be cut so as to provide the packing specified in Table I (p. 15).
For zones F and G (fig. 5) provision should be made for additional
packing by increasing the length of all parts 4 inches, and for zone C
a correspondingly smaller case may be made.

  Bottom of case          44 Inches (exact) by 52 Inches (exact).
  Sides of case           53-5/8 Inches (exact) by 35-5/8 Inches (minimum).
  Ends of case            44 Inches (exact) by 35-5/8 Inches (minimum).
  Telescope cover of case 48 Inches by 56 Inches (minimum).

If 6-inch boards (laying 5-1/2 inches) are used, it is desirable to use
7 boards for the height of the case; if 8-inch boards (laying 7-1/2
inches) are used, 5 will be sufficient. In figure 2 only 6 boards,
laying 5-1/2 inches, are shown, but in this case no allowance is made
for a third hive body in the spring. For the telescoping part of the
cover, 4-inch boards are used.

As was pointed out earlier, the hives should rest throughout the summer
on the floor of the winter case (fig. 1). The plan of putting them in
groups of four, two facing east and two west, has much to commend it
during the entire year. The bottom therefore should be made strong
enough to stand the weight of four colonies without getting out of
shape. Since this weight may be over 1,000 pounds in a good year, it
is advised that the cleats on the bottom of the case be of 2 by 4 inch
material. The supports of the bottom and the position of the cleats
should be arranged so that the weight will not rest too largely on the
boards, and the stones or bricks used should be directly under the
center of the hives when they are in their summer position. Obviously
the hives will be moved to the outer corners of the bottom during the
summer to facilitate handling.

The sides of the case should be so constructed that the cleats which
hold the boards together will serve to support the overlapping sides
on the bottom. This is clearly shown in figure 2. There should also
be a central cleat on the sides to prevent warping, for the cases
must be rain-proof. If cleats are properly placed as shown in the
illustration, they make the equivalent of a halved joint at the
corners. The sides may be held in place and together by nails or by
any sort of special hook. The entrances for the colonies during winter
should be in the ends of the case, as shown. These will be discussed

The top of the case may be made to telescope over the sides, as shown
in figure 2, or it may be made in any other way desired so that it is
adequate to keep the packing absolutely dry throughout the winter. The
telescope cover has much to commend it, especially in the case with
which the covers may be stored in summer. The top of the wooden cover
should be covered with a roofing paper of first quality in order that
the protection will last for years. If the telescope type of cover
is used, no cleats other than the sides and ends of the telescoping
portion will be needed.

[Illustration: Fig. 3.--An apiary packed for winter in four-colony
cases such as are used in the Bureau of Entomology apiary.]

A tunnel (fig. 2, a) is also needed through which the bees may pass on
warm days and to permit ventilation. This is best made of two boards,
one the width of the packing (e. g., 6 inches) and the other this width
loss the extension of the bottom board. In most cases this extension
is 2 inches, so the lower board will be 4 inches wide. These are held
apart by strips three-eighths of an inch thick. This is the height of
the usual hive entrance in winter, and the passage between the boards
is therefore the same height as the hive entrance. In order that the
tunnel may not get out of alignment, these strips are continued back,
as shown in the figure, and these projections extend into the hive
entrances at the corners. The arrangement for keeping alignment at the
outer edge is discussed under "The entrance" (p. 13).


For those having only a few colonies, it is not always convenient to
build cases for colonies in groups of four. It is not necessary to
give dimensions in detail for those having a few colonies, however,
for they will usually wish to use whatever they have at hand. It is
often possible to arrange a heavy wooden box, such as those used for
shipping dry goods (fig. 4), so as to make a winter case for one colony
which will answer every purpose. It is, of course, necessary that the
salient feature of a good winter case be preserved. If the arrangement
of the apiary makes it inconvenient to have the colonies in groups of
four throughout the year, it is quite possible to make good cases for
two colonies. Anything other than the four-colony case, however, will
probably cost more per colony, or if too many colonies are put into
larger cases there may be trouble from other causes, as from drifting.

[Illustration: Fig. 4.--An improvised winter case for one colony.]



As has been pointed out, bees need room for breeding in the fall and
again in the spring. During the winter season there is no brood-rearing
in normal colonies which are adequately protected, and room for
breeding therefore is not essential during the winter. If the bees are
to have room for the proper development of colony strength, however,
they should have two hive bodies each of 10-frame Langstroth size by
about the beginning of April in most parts of the country, and earlier
in the South. In order that it may be unnecessary to open colonies
during a period of such unsettled weather as obtains at this season,
it is advised that the room for breeding be provided in the fall and
left with the bees all winter. To make this a safe procedure, it is
necessary to provide more packing than would be necessary if the colony
were provided with only enough room for the cluster and winter stores
during the winter. It has been found desirable also to leave more
stores with the bees than have been left by many beekeepers, and this
is additional reason for the giving of more room during the winter.

It is recommended, therefore, that in all parts of the United States
colonies of full strength be wintered in two hive-bodies of 10-frame
Langstroth size. They should, of course, be provided with abundant
protection and the entrances should be reduced.


Formerly it was commonly recommended that corn cobs, or other objects
designed for the purpose, be placed above the top bars of the frames,
and then that quilts be placed over these. The purpose of these
objects, was to lift the quilts so that the bees could pass over the
tops of the frames. In former years it was advised that holes be bored
through the combs to permit passage from one space to the other. Of
late years these things have been abandoned, to a large degree, for
it is known now that if bees are packed as they should be they may
pass easily at all times to any part of the hive as need arises. It
is often stated that bees die of starvation in the hives when there
is abundant honey not many inches away from the cluster. This, of
course, never happens in colonies that are well packed. In colonies
that are adequately protected there is no better plan than simply to
leave the regular wooden cover in place and sealed down by the bees.
Quilts directly over the frames are a nuisance at any time, and during
the winter they are of no value for upward ventilation in well packed
colonies and should be used only as a poor makeshift for good packing.


A common practice has been to remove the hive cover when the bees are
packed for winter and to cover the frames with burlap or some such
porous material, the object being to allow the escape of any moisture
which may be generated within the hive during the winter. Moisture is
being generated constantly as the bees consume the honey stores, but if
the bees are adequately packed the amount of moisture will be reduced
to the minimum. The chief dancer, of course, is from moisture which
condenses, and in an adequately packed hive there is no condensation.
The temperature never goes low enough for water vapor to condense.
Therefore it is obvious that upward ventilation for the escape of
moisture is never needed in hives that are packed as they should be.
Any beekeeper who has had trouble in the past with condensed moisture
in the hives, or with wet packing over the porous tops, may be sure
that he has not provided enough packing material.

Another thing is to be considered in connection with the subject of
upward ventilation. The entrances to the hives must be greatly reduced
in order that there may not be excessive loss of heat at that point. If
upward ventilation is provided, there is opportunity for the wind to
blow through even the small entrance, through the hive and out through
the porous cover. This current of air will be slight but nevertheless
it exists, and serves as an avenue for the escape of considerable heat.

If insufficient packing is provided, upward ventilation becomes almost
necessary, unless a large entrance is left. The beekeeper must see to
it that he is providing adequate packing material before he gives up
the upward ventilation, but he should not count his bees well packed
for winter so long as he must provide for the escape of condensed


As has been pointed out, the entrances of hives must be greatly reduced
during the winter in order that the efficacy of the bottom packing may
be preserved. It is desirable, however, that provision be made for
larger entrances during the early fall and again in the spring. To
provide conditions suitable at all times while the packing cases are
on, the Bureau of Entomology has adopted a type of entrance which to
some extent has been used previously in the North. Five 3/8-inch anger
holes are bored in the ends of the packing case at a height that will
allow for the thickness of the case floor, the bottom packing, and the
thickness of the bottom of the hive. This usually is a little over 6
inches from the lower edge of the case ends. No alighting board should
be placed at the outer entrance holes, as it is not needed and serves
only to collect snow and ice.

To prevent the tunnels from getting out of alignment at the outer
edge, a peg of the diameter of the holes is inserted through the
outer hole for each hive and into the tunnel (see fig. 2). This peg
is usually about 2-1/2 inches long. This leaves four auger holes,
each three-eighths of an inch in diameter, for the bees to use as an
entrance during the fall and spring, and during the colder weather a
piece of section material or a small board is tacked over three of
the holes. (See fig. 3.) This gives in winter a single hole for an
entrance, three-eighths of an inch in diameter. This provides a place
for the bees to remove their dead, a place for flight on moderately
warm days, and also provides adequate ventilation for the hive while
the bees are confined without an opportunity for flight. However, the
size of entrance should not be discussed without warning beekeepers
that unless adequate packing is provided, such a small entrance may
result in the death of the colony. Furthermore, a poorly packed
colony will not be able to carry out the bees as they die, and the
death rate will be higher; and these things combined may result in
an accumulation of dead bees at the entrance, which will serve to
suffocate the remaining bees. A colony that is well packed, however, is
able to remove all dead bees as fast as they die, and there will never
be an accumulation on the floor of the hive. Furthermore, a well-packed
colony does not need so large an entrance for ventilation as does one
that is not packed or which has not enough packing. If snow drifts over
the small entrance here described, the beekeeper need have no anxiety,
for the bees can still receive adequate ventilation. If a crust of
ice closes the entrance it will be well to break it, but usually the
escaping heat will melt this ice before any damage is done.

[Illustration: Fig. 5.--Map of the eastern United States indicating
average date of first killing frost in autumn. On this the zones for
winter packing are based. No packing is recommended in zones A and B.]


Great confusion has existed among beekeepers as to the right time
to pack the bees for winter, and especially as to the right time to
remove the packing in the spring. It is quite possible to give definite
directions for both procedures and to place the recommendations on a
firm foundation by basing them on weather phenomena. The maps (figs.
5 and 6), showing the time of the first average killing frost in the
fall, serve as a basis for the recommendations for each of the zones
into which the map of the eastern United States is divided. Perhaps it
will be a matter of surprise to beekeepers in parts of the South to see
that, so far as the wintering of the bees is concerned, they are as far
north as beekeepers who live many miles farther toward the pole.

The lines on figure 5 indicate the average dates of the first killing
frost in the fall, and these dates, given at the ends of the heavy
lines, are of direct value to the beekeeper as giving the proper time
for putting on the winter cases. The average dates of the last killing
frost in the spring do not show exactly the same lines on the maps,
but the differences are not sufficiently great to justify the use of
a separate map for this purpose. The authors have chosen therefore to
divide the country into the zones indicated, and the recommendations
given below apply to each of the zones shown.

On account of the variations in elevation, it is impossible to carry
these lines into the Rocky Mountain region, but as packing is just as
necessary in the West as in the East, figure 6 is inserted to indicate
roughly the time for the putting on of the packing in the fall. The
dates in this map are the average dates of the first killing frost. By
consulting Table I the beekeeper of the West may learn the time advised
for the removal of the packing, by placing his locality in its proper
zone, on the basis of the first killing frost.

Table I.--_Dates for the packing and unpacking of been in the various
parts of the United States, board on data furnished by the Weather
Bureau for the average dates of the first and last killing frosts. The
amount of packing recommended for each zone is included._

        |   Date for  | Date for  |   Packing      |
   Zone.|   packing.  | unpacking.| recommended.[1]| Remarks.
    A   |    .....    |   .....   |     .....      | None needed.
    B   |    .....    |   .....   |     .....      |    Do.
    C   | November 25 | March 15  |    2-4- 6      |
    D   | November 10 | April 10  |    4-6- 8      |
    E   | October 25  | May 1     |    4-6- 8      |
    F   | October 1   | May 20    |    4-8-12      |
    G   | September 15| June 1    |    4-8-12      | Cellar wintering
        |             |           |                |   much safer.

[1] In this column the first figure represents in inches the amount of
packing needed below the bottom boards, the second the amount of side
packing, and the last the amount needed on top.


Frequently great loss of colony strength is due to delay in putting
on the packing. Perhaps this is the most common source of loss in
outdoor wintering aside from that due to a failure to pack the bees
at all. Packing should not be deferred after the flowers furnishing
the last honey are killed by frost. In case the late fall flowers
furnish honey that is to be removed, then it is necessary to wait until
nectar is no longer coming in before applying the packing, but it is
indeed rare that the last honey should be taken away, and it is good
beekeeping to apply the packing even before there is any frost at all.
The determining factor is the necessity for handling the bees. If more
stores must be given them or if some of the late honey is to be removed
in order that it may be replaced by better honey or by sugar sirup,
then handling of the bees after frost may be needed, but after the last
essential handling it is much the best plan to pack the bees. In pints
of the country where bees are wintered outdoors it is quite customary
to delay packing until Thanksgiving Day, but this is too late by far
except in the extreme South (zone C).

It is safe, therefore, for the beekeeper to use the dates shown in
figures 5 and 6 and the data given in Table I as a guide to the time
of packing. He may be assured that if he delays packing later than the
dates shown therein the bees will suffer by a loss of colony strength
and vitality at a season of the year when they can ill afford to be
weakened by neglect. Under no circumstances should packing be delayed
more, than two weeks after the date given for each zone. Further, if
packing is delayed until after cold weather begins, the disturbance of
the colony may induce the beginning of brood-rearing, find this in turn
may result in the death of the colony. If by chance a colony has been
left unpacked until after the bees have been confined by cold weather
for three or four weeks, the packing may do more harm than good.


If bees are given the right amount of room, stores, and protection
early in the fall, nothing that the beekeeper can do will benefit
them until it is necessary to handle them because of preparations for
swarming or because of the incoming nectar. Of course if bees are well
packed they get so strong in the spring that if crowded they begin
preparations for swarming earlier than do colonies which have been
neglected during the winter. By following the methods here described
the season for swarm control is advanced, so that usually it is
entirely passed before the honey-flow begins.

In the region of Washington it has been found best not to remove the
packing until at least May 1. Further south or in warmer regions it
may be well to remove the packing earlier, but in localities such as
New York or Wisconsin (zone F) the packing should be left in place
until at least May 20, and usually until June 1. Obviously this will be
impossible unless two hive bodies are left on the bees all winter, or
unless more room is given in the early spring, before unpacking. It has
been found that if the bees are allowed to remain in the cases until
the dates named they may then be taken out ready for whatever nectar
may come. By that time they should have 12 frames of brood--far more
than is found in the average colony throughout the country oven in the
midst of the honey-flow. Such colonies are so strong that if cooler
weather comes after they are unpacked, as it sometimes does, they are
not injured by it. Of course the bees would be as well of even better
off if the packing could be left on throughout the year, but as yet no
practicable way has been devised for giving the bees enough packing
during the winter and then leaving it on throughout the summer. The
commercial double-walled hives which have been devised for this purpose
are all too scant in packing material for good results, and none of
them can be recommended.

[Illustration: Fig. 6.--Map of the western United States, showing
variation in average date of first killing frost. For each locality
the recommendations for packing and unpacking are the same as in
corresponding zones in figure 5. The dryer atmosphere of most of the
West does not diminish the need of packing. For localities where the
first frost occurs after November 25 no packing is recommended.]

The dates given for the removal of packing in the spring follow
approximately the average dates of the last killing frost in the spring
for each locality. In case local conditions make the removal of the
packing unnecessary as early as the dates indicated, it is entirely
safe to leave the packing on until some manipulation makes it desirable
to handle the combs, as this can not well be done while the hives are
heavily packed.


In packing bees for winter two things require attention so far as
stores are concerned, and one is as important as the other: (1)
There must be plenty of honey in the hive to last until the spring
honey-flow, and (2) the stores which will be used by the bees during
the period of confinement in winter must be of the best quality and
well ripened.

It is, of course, possible to give the bees more honey or sugar sirup
after spring opens, but this means that the colonies will need to
be handled during this period, and this is not the best plan. It is
commonly said among the best beekeepers that "the best time to do
spring feeding is the fall before." The safest plan by all means is to
allow each colony to have at least 45 pounds of honey at the time the
bees are packed. They should then be allowed to keep any honey which
may come in later, and it will be adequately ripened if the colony is
well packed. This will be small in extent if they are packed at the
right time, and the bees will also have their stores replenished by
small amounts of honey which come in during the early spring before
they are unpacked. This amount of stores for winter will seem large to
many beekeepers who have been in the habit of leaving loss, but the
object of the plans herein set forth is to have much stronger colonies
than are found in the average apiary in the spring, and the amount of
stores mentioned may be needed. The only places where beekeepers might
have some reason to reduce the amount of stores are locations where the
honey granulates quickly, in which event it can not be extracted later.
Such honey, however, usually is as good for winter stores as if it
were not granulated, and it may then be saved for stores the following
winter. Forty-five pounds of honey on the hive is a better investment
for the beekeeper than money in the bank, and more beekeepers make
mistakes in this regard than anywhere else in the work of the year.
Honey that is high in gums, as many of the honeys which come from
various trees, is not good for winter stores. Honeydew honey is still
less desirable. When either is present it is best to remove it and
either to give frames of good honey to take its place or to feed about
10 pounds of good honey or sirup made of granulated sugar after all
brood-rearing has ceased. Honey or sugar sirup which is fed late is
stored in the place where the last brood emerged; it is therefore the
first of the stores that the bees use. As long as they are having good
honey or sugar stores for winter use the condition known as dysentery
will be warded off. Then, later, when they have used up the good
stores, the weather will permit frequent flights, and then the less
satisfactory stores will do no harm. Honeydew honeys usually may be
detected by their bad taste, accompanied ordinarily by a dark, muddy
appearance. In case of doubt as to the stores it is always safe to give
good honey or sugar sirup. Unfortunately it is true that many of the
fall honeys are not of the best quality for winter use, and this, in
part, accounts for the heavy losses of bees occurring regularly in some
parts of the country.


One frequently encounters beekeepers who condemn winter packing,
stating that they have tried it without success. The writers have met
many such beekeepers, and many of them are good beekeepers in other
respects. On careful inquiry it is learned that in all cases they have
omitted some vitally important factor. The most common fault in winter
packing is to leave the entrances of the hives wide open. This, of
course, nullifies the benefit of the packing to a large degree, and
one need not be surprised that these men do not find virtue in packing
heavily. Another common fault in packing is to omit the packing from
the bottom. Snow acts as an excellent insulation, but one can not
be sure that there will be snow at just the right times, and it is
therefore necessary, to insure good wintering, that good packing be
placed on the bottoms.

It is also common to face the hives to the south and then leave the
fronts without packing, under the erroneous impression that since
the heat from the sun will enter more readily, the colonies will be
benefited more than they would be if they were heavily packed in
front. To combat this view it should be necessary only to point out
that the sun shines only a small fraction of the hours during winter.
Furthermore, any place through which heat may enter easily serves also
as a place through which heat escapes. In certain well-known cases the
other factors of good wintering, strong colonies and good stores, are
so well provided that the loss from this lack of protection is not
detected, yet it is certain that in any such method of wintering there
is a great loss of bee vitality, and the bees are compelled to do more
work in heat generation than would be the case were they well packed.

It can not be stated too strongly that the right way to winter bees is
to provide all the factors needed, and not to omit any of them simply
because in most years the bees can get through without all dying when
less help is given. The three things necessary for successful earing
for bees from the time they are packed until they are unpacked in the
late spring are (1) plenty of protection, (2) plenty of stores of good
quality, and (3) plenty of room for the building up of the colony
strength in the spring. None of these may be omitted without reducing
the colony strength in the spring, and, as every good beekeeper knows,
it is the strong colonies which get the maximum crop.


It is often difficult for a beekeeper to know whether he is wintering
his bees as well as he should, for he may not have been able to learn
from reading or visiting other apiaries how well colonies may be
brought through the winter. The writers therefore have attempted to
give here a few measures which the beekeeper may apply to his apiary,
that he may be able to decide whether his methods of wintering should
be improved.

1. When bees are adequately packed and protected from the wind, they
are able to push out the dead bees as they die in winter. There should
never be an accumulation of dead bees on the bottom board.

2. A colony of full strength will have 12 Langstroth frames filled with
brood by the time that the bees should be unpacked. The bees should not
be taken from their cases until it is necessary to handle them, and if
two hive bodies have been given each colony, unpacking may be deferred
until time for the control of swarming or until the new honey is coming
in freely. Sometimes it even happens that colonies need a third hive as
a swarm prevention measure before it is time to remove the packing, in
which case it can be given and the packing replaced, at least around
the sides of the third hive body. Space for this is indicated in the
dimensions given on page 9.

3. A colony is not of proper strength for winter unless it has between
three and four frames of brood two months before the time for putting
on packing. Usually this will be six weeks before brood-rearing ceases.
If there is less brood at that time it indicates either that the queen
is not good or that the colony has been weakened from some other
cause. If taken in time this condition may be remedied by adding brood
or honey or by uniting. It is extravagant to attempt to winter weak

4. If a thermometer is inserted into the hive through the auger hole
entrance at the time of the coldest weather in winter it should
show a temperature above the freezing point. At no time should the
temperature of any part of the hive go below freezing, and the point
just within the entrance is the most convenient one at which to take
the temperature readings. The lowest temperature obviously will be at
this point.


[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 $10,000,000 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 stand 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 or 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
duly 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 hit 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 be, 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.


It is imperative that the sugar crop of the United States be increased,
and every supply of supplemental sweet should be augmented to the
greatest possible extent. Honey is one of the best of these and its
production may be increased without great effort. The supply of nectar
from which the bees make honey is bountiful and the only limitation
to honey production is whether the price obtainable for the honey
justifies the labor of the beekeeper. There is no question of this in

The recent demand for honey for export has been greater than ever
before and the home demand has also greatly increased. Because of the
shortage of sugar, all forms of supplemental sweets are being utilized
and none of these appeals to the tastes of the consuming public more
strongly than does honey. This increased demand has raised the price
of honey and it is therefore a paying business to produce it to meet
this need, in addition to the fact that the beekeeper may feel that he
is materially assisting in the food crisis of the Nation. It is to be
expected that even after the war is over this demand for honey will not
cease, for many people are eating honey now who were not familiar with
its delicious qualities, and they will not forget how good it is.

In the production of honey, it is of the first importance that the
colonies of bees be kept strong, especially that they be strong
before the beginning of the main honey-flows of the early summer. To
bring about this essential condition, the most important step is the
proper wintering of the bees, and this bulletin has been prepared that
beekeepers throughout the country may be able to get their bees through
the winter without the great loss of colonies and reduction in strength
of those which still live which have been so common in the past. The
proper preparation of the bees for winter now becomes not only a
patriotic duty, but it is good business.


       *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber Notes

Illustrations moved so as to prevent splitting paragraphs.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "USDA Farmers' Bulletin No. 1012: The Preparation of Bees for Outdoor Wintering" ***

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