SMITHTOWN, N.Y. (PIX11) — Bees come a dime a dozen during the summer. Come winter, you’d be hard pressed to find one. But that’s not the case Grace Mehl’s backyard.

Mehl has turned her passion into a business. In addition to being a certified master beekeeper and education director for the Long Island BeeKeepers Club, she’s also the owner of Mehl Hill Apiary in Smithtown, named in honor of her family after they purchased the piece of land in 1947. 

Honeybees thrive during the summer, but keeping them alive during the winter can be challenging. According to, backyard beekeepers with less than 50 colonies had a record-high colony-loss rate of 58.5% in 2022. With a high success rate, Mehl has made it her mission to protect honeybees.

Based on the metamorphosis, she says during the winter each colony has about 20,000 to 25,000 bees. In the summer, there’s about 50,000 to 60,000 bees in each colony. 

When it comes to beekeeping, preparation is key, and it starts by making sure they have a good home. Having a strong foundation allows them to form clusters during the winter, which keeps them warm.

Naturally, bees find a hollow tree to live in, which provides natural insulation. Mehl created a hive made of wood. During months, she wraps the outside and then insulates with newspapers on the inner cover, which helps them survive during the winter. 

Controlling pests is also important. Adding organic acid treatments will prevent the parasites from weakening the bees, which will reduce loss. 

Finally, you must make sure they have enough food. 

The recent drought proved to be challenging for the bees to get nectar during the warm months. So Mehl keeps a good amount of reserve on standby and checks the hives every two weeks to make sure they have enough food to eat.

Helping the bees survive during the winter has become second nature for the backyard beekeeper. But she says we can also do our part to help increase the honeybee population by planting more trees. Protecting these honeybees means protecting our future.