Winter is Coming… A Call for a Vigilant Beekeeper

It seems as though winter is finally establishing itself throughout the Chicago area. Last Saturday I was on my way to the Cook-Dupage Beekeepers monthly meeting, and had struggled my way almost to Harlem on 290. Then I received a call from my business partner Thad Smith, “Cancelled man. Go home, take a day off, you need one with the last 4 days we’ve had.” He was right, and if I were to break down my feelings it was 80-20% split between elation and disappointment.

Even with the terrible weather, I was looking forward to seeing so many beekeepers and commiserating the highs and lows of the past bee season. I was also scheduled to give a talk about winter preparations, and because I had put them down in my notes, I can actually relay them to you too.

Beekeepers should be in tune with their environment. You know of those that are, the beekeepers that know within a day the coming nectar flow, the exact day to split, the time of the approaching dearth, etc. They have this incredible and precise internal clock that set those beekeepers apart from others. I feel that while I’ve made strides in the area, there is still a long way to go to reach their status. Unfortunately, I feel that some of us northern beekeepers are far too eager to pack away our smoker and hive tool for the season, and along with it, our beekeeping responsibilities. Just because the weather has dictated that we can’t ‘crack open a hive’ doesn’t mean that we are done with beekeeping.

We as northern Illinois beekeepers have it doubly tough, as our area goes through two dearths. Our first typically happens in the waning stages of summer, when the nectar seems to suddenly dry up. The bees then gorge themselves on any stored honey inside the hive. The second, seldom-considered dearth lasts a little longer, that being the Chicago winter months. While this time is not usually considered a “