Winter Work

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Winter work includes walks through the woods and the mud anytime it’s warm enough.  Sadly, this weekend it also included cleaning out three of our five beehives as the colonies died during our most recent cold spell.  One of them we suspected to be queenless going into winter, so it’s loss wasn’t a surprise.  The other two, we had higher hopes for.  Inspecting the combs and the dead clusters of bees, they appear to have starved, despite the fact that there was plenty of honey throughout the hive and even on nearby frames.  In both hives there were eggs, and we’ve read that bees won’t abandon their brood during a cold spell, even to eat.  I am not sure what we could have done to prevent this, and I am nervous about our other two hives.  We can only hope for the best.  At any rate, I feel good about getting all my equipment organized and thinking of what a good start any new packages we buy this spring will have, owing to all the comb and honey the others left behind.


  1. Lovely photos! Especially the orangy one. Though I love the ones with the weak winter light because that is what life is light right now, isn’t it. AND they were beautiful. BTW, drink coffee, life is short! 🙂

  2. The ninth photo is a masterpiece.

  3. What a shame about your bees. We are hoping all our bees will make it through the winter.

  4. Hi Ginny!
    Thank you for a great blog. I’m a 34 year old mom from Sweden and I’ve been following your blog for a few years and I love it. You and your family seem to be calm and harmonic. I’m a bit curious and I need to ask you something if it is ok.
    Is your husband working away from home, or is he at home homeschooling your children as you are?
    This fenomenon fascinates me so much and I admire you very much!! I really do!! And thank you for sharing with all of us!!
    Love // Natalia

    • Hi Natalia! I would say we are anything but calm and harmonic! That must be the illusion of photography. My house is VERY noisy most of the time. 🙂 My husband works full time from home. For all the years we have homeschooled I have been the one mainly in charge of it, but recently he has started helping with math lessons, which is a huge help!

  5. Ginny –

    One thing to consider when preparing your hives for winter is improving their chances of survival by insulating the hive itself to hold in the heat that they naturally generate. Here in Alaska, we built hive covers out of blueboard which are easy to maneuver on and off. The blueboard material is easy to cut with a jigsaw for creating small openings at the bottom next to the hive entrance and a few small openings around the top for ventilation (airflow is important). Blueboard is inexpensive, compared to replacing your bee stock and the boxy covers can be reused from year to year. Ours is held together with 4-inch wood screws, but you could probably overlap the pieces and glue together also. We also make bee candy and place in the top of the hive to supplement their winter supply of readily available food. Something to think about ………… Overwintering here is tricky business, but it can be done if you increase their ability to maintain warmth and food supply.

    • Kari, I noticed you are from Alaska. Just wanted to chime in I picked up the DVD for Alaska, The Last Frontier. It was very inlightening and the extra’s that were included that talked about the utilities, earthquakes, avalanches was something I had never thought about before. I’m very content to just contend with the tornado’s in Iowa.


  6. Diana Smith says:

    Sorry to hear about your bees. We checked ours this weekend as it got to the 60’s here in MO. One super strong and the other with no queen found….and angry as can be. Pa got numerous stings. This hive had swarmed in August which was odd anyhow and we re-queened but apparently the queen is dead. Luckily we could steal some brood from the other colony and hope they’ll raise a queen but she’d have to fly in mid Feb and find a willing drone so chances are slim. Earliest time to get new queens is march. This after the bear visit last year which cost us 11 hives. Starting over wasn’t cheap.

  7. So sorry about the bees, they seem to be pretty fickle as I’ve ready in blog land which makes me nervous about acquiring any in the future. Crossing my fingers your other two make it into the spring!

  8. so sorry about your bees!! Will light a candle in prayer for those who remain today in your other hives. lovely pictures.

  9. Sorry about your bees ! I had bees here in France and I love them.
    All the best for the new year.

  10. I am sorry about your bees. I hope you will be lucky with the ones that remain.
    We also try to get out as much as possible if it is not raining. The kids (and me too) go crazy when inside too long 🙂

  11. I must be weird (please don’t confirm). Everyone is commenting on the beauty of the day captured by your photos and I’m thinking, “Whoa! Is Johnny wearing checkered pants and a stripped shirt? Funky!” (fourth photo) and (first photo) “Man, Gabe is getting tall!” Maybe I’m a people person, not a nature person?

  12. I am sad to hear about your loss of bees and hives, I admire bees and how much work they do for us and for the planet as they pollinate. I hope you add more hives.

  13. Hi Ginny,
    Beautiful pictures,as they always are. I read this news article this morning and it reminded me of your boys. Hope you have time to check it out ( )

  14. Ohhhh, so much photography inspiration! These are stunning. I love the shift between the warm wine red and purple sunset to the cool blues of the silhouettes. Wow. 🙂

  15. Hi Ginny,
    May I ask about the 9 th photograph from the top? The colors are stunning, and I am wondering what caused such interesting lighting? Thanks for sharing, as always.

    • Hi Becky, It was nearly dark out, and that light came from the street light across the road from us. The light, ordinary as it was, seemed like it was sparkling on the branches.

  16. So sorry to hear about your hive! This makes me so nervous. We’re planning on getting bees this spring and live in Buffalo! We’ll have to learn more about winter upkeep because people have successful hives around here and bees survive through the winter somehow. I just haven’t learned how yet. I hope your other hives are all right!

    • Don’t be nervous! Just know that things don’t always go well, and that’s part of it. Last winter was consistently cold here and both of our hives came through the winter. I am wondering if the warm/cold weather fluctuations we have been having somehow messed them up… Also, we don’t treat our bees for mites, so we do expect some winter losses because of that–though that didn’t appear to be the case for these two hives.

  17. Such beautiful January photographs! So sorry to hear about your bees! Hope the remaining ones flourish!

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