Not all Winters are the same!!

So how cold is your winter (cold intensity and length) - Here are some tools where you can use local hourly data to measure it.

Figure 1: This chart the accumulated winter clustering degree hours based on 8C. You can relate it to a comparison of "energy" required to maintain 8C in the various locations. CDH 8 = HDD (Heating Degree Days) for Bees

Introduction (Currently Updating!!)

The honey bees kept in the Yukon, Northwest Territories (NWT) and Alaska face some of the coldest winter climates in the world where bees are kept. There are currently 2 approaches to beekeeping up here. Overwinter the bees (Yukon and NWT) or kill off the bees after every season (Majority of Alaskan Beekeepers).

My goal is to show you that it is possible to successfully overwinter bees in our climate, sustain our bee numbers through splits/nucs and get good honey crops. The key as you will see is based on a good understanding of bee nutrition and biology, an understanding of your "local" beekeeping area (forage, climate), lots of very healthy winter bees and some very well insulated hives. I will also discuss the impact of Varroa Mites, Nosema Ceranae and older queens on your wintering success.

As you will see successful beekeeping and overwintering starts at year 0 and requires you to follow a disciplined locally adapted hive management approach.

Objectives and Desired Outcomes

Develop a beekeeping approach that:

  • Aligns with my local bee cycle (Spring ramp up to Winter prep)
  • Maximizes the use of my local forage (availability of pollen and nectar sources)
  • Helps my bees stay healthy (Nutritional diversity)
  • Allows for supplemental feeding to fill the gaps
  • Takes into account environmental limitations (hive limits, honey targets)


  • Vigorous populous hives (splits/nucs+, honey+, wintering+) are the norm
  • Consistent honey yields produced
  • Diseases and Pests are managed
  • Desired number of hives are maintained
  • Apiary sustains itself (Bees+, Time -, Costs)

Wintering Success Factors

Lots of healthy fat bees

  • When is your last pollen?
  • How many floral pollen sources do you have late summer?

Adequate winter stores (at least 60lbs per brood box)

  • Honey quality (no honeydew, does it crystallizes, correct moisture content)
  • Pollen (do they have stored pollen?)

Dry home to spend the winter

  • Leaky homes have more condensation consider sealing the hive body seams
  • Insulation is critical # 1 top of hive and #2 sidewalls
  • Where will moisture condense in your setup?
  • How will you manage condensation?
  • Quilt, top vent/No top vent, screened bottom board
  • Underside of hive protected from cold (e.g. 2 pallets, 2" styrofoam and 3/4" plywood). Absolutely no concrete pads or open vented screened bottom boards!!
  • Mice protection
  • Wind Protection

Sample Monitoring Results and Hive Type Comparisons