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When is it too Cold to Check My Hive?

Many beekeepers are very concerned about the cold when it comes time to check their hives in the winter months. However, following a few simple principles, it won’t hurt your hive at all! I always encourage beekeepers to check their hives at least 1 time per month during the winter. Here are some parameters around when to inspect:

  • Inspections lasting less than 1 minute, breaking boxes apart and feeding or looking at the cluster, but not pulling out frames- Make sure the temperature is above 32 degrees
  • Inspections lasting more than 1 minute, but you are only pulling out 1 or 2 frame in only a few minutes- Make sure it’s sunny & above 40 degrees.
  • Inspections lasting several minutes, and you are pulling out several frames- Make sure it is sunny & above 50 degrees. 

I also recommend doing winter inspections during the heat of the day at least a few hours before dark. This will allow the cluster to re-form before it gets cold at night. It will also allow any bees that flew out of the hive during the inspection to return home. If you suspect your hive is starving, and the temperatures are under 32 degrees, lift up on the outside of the hive to get a feel for how much honey is inside. If it feels light open the hive & feed. No food will absolutely kill a hive. Quickly opening the hive and feeding, even if it is well below 32 degrees won’t significantly hurt them.

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