One of the factors we have learned over the last year that has really hurt honey bees during the winter months is the actual construction of managed hives. These hives are often shaped like boxes, have different compartments, and one small opening at the bottom. They are also rather flimsy in terms of what type of wood and the thickness of that wood. In far too many cases, beekeepers do not do anything to protect these flimsy hives from the winter weather, which, of course, then leads to massive losses over the winter.
Normally, bees try to store enough honey in the hive to feed them over the course of the winter. Managed hives will harvest that honey, though, leaving the bees with nothing to eat but what they are fed by the beekeeper. Most beekeepers will use feeders to provide the bees with sugar water or corn syrup. There are a LOT of different theories about how healthy this is for bees, and since we are not true experts, we would advise you to sit down with a local expert to see what will work best for your hives.
Varroa Mite Treatment
Before the hive goes into hibernation mode, you will definitely want to treat it for Varroa mites. If not, the mites will feast on the bees over the winter and wipe out the hive. Again, we have seen a variety of treatments used, such as powdered sugar to remove the mites from the bee as well as a process using oxalic acid. If you have never done this before, we strongly suggest you get some training from a local expert.
Insulating the Hives
If the bees are not kept warm, they will die, period. To prevent this, you can buy winter wraps or make your own warming blanket to protect the hive from the elements. If you go on YouTube, you will see dozens of options that are used by beekeepers to insulate the hive.
When winterizing the hive, you must remember to keep it ventilated or too much moisture will build up inside the hive. Your hive will need ventilation at both the top and bottom to ensure this does happen. Again, if this is something you have never personally done, there are plenty of experienced beekeeper video lessons for this on YouTube and many local beekeeping organizations would be happy to provide advice if needed.