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The Buzz On Winter

With the days growing short and temperatures dropping, it’s time to get the Rogue Farms honeybees ready for winter.


For most of the year they’ve been collecting nectar and making honey for our mead, kolsch and braggot.

Now it’s our turn to take care of them.

Winter floods are always a threat in the Wigrich Appellation. Most of our 1200 acre apiary lies within the flood plain of the Willamette River. So we moved the hives to higher ground near the hazelnut orchard.

High and dry next to the hazelnuts.
High and dry next to the hazelnuts.

Then we placed the hives on pallets to keep out ground moisture, mice and the one of the most common predators of honeybees – skunks.

Pallets stacked three high create enough space to keep out mice and skunks.
Pallets stacked three high create enough space to keep out mice and skunks.

We inspect the hives for pests and disease, and medicate if needed.

Two of the biggest threats to honeybees are varroa mites and fungal diseases. Both can be controlled with the proper medications.
Two of the biggest threats to honeybees are varroa mites and fungal diseases. Both can be controlled with the proper medications.

It will soon be too cold to leave the hive and forage, so the honeybees depend on us to feed them. We stock the hives with plenty of sugar syrup and pollen patties. It’s important to minimize the number of times we replenish their supplies. Opening the hive during winter, even briefly, can be dangerous to our bees.

Pollen patties, often made with brewer’s yeast, provide honeybees with protein, minerals and vitamins.
Pollen patties, often made with brewer’s yeast, provide honeybees with protein, minerals and vitamins.

Honeybees are highly specialized. As the bees born during summer die off, they’re replaced by a hardier variety designed to survive the winter. Winter bees are fatter, allowing them to survive when food stocks run low. While a summer bee has a life span of about six weeks, a winter honeybee lives four to six months.

Winter bees are all females. The drones (males) die off by the end of summer and breeding is halted until spring. Having fewer mouths to feed helps the colony survive until spring.
Winter bees are all females. The drones (males) die off by the end of summer and breeding is halted until spring. Having fewer mouths to feed helps the colony survive until spring.

Honeybee populations will naturally drop as we head into winter. It’s in the best interest of the colony. But we’ll do all we can to keep them healthy and well fed.

In a few months the honeybees will be foraging on the hazelnut flowers that will appear next to their winter homes. That’ll be followed by flowering maples, cherries, apples and walnuts. When the summer nectar flow picks up, the honeybees will pollinate our pumpkins, marionberries, roses, and jalapeños as well as thousands of wild blackberries and clover flowers.

The Rogue Farms honeybees will sample all the flavors of the Wigrich Appellation. The honey they’ll produce will be a true taste of the terroir where we grow Rogue Farms ingredients. You’ll taste the difference the next time you enjoy our mead, honey kolsch and braggot.

Please visit us at Rogue Farms and see how we grow beer and spirits!

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