Spring break for the bees

It’s just SO weird to put on a bee suit in January. However, it was a warm day, so my bees came out to poop, and I was able to feed them.

By warm I mean that in 24 hours the temp shot up from -10°C to the opposite, plus 10°C, wiping out all the snow, and exposing all the gross wet wood and dirt (now the mercury is rapidly falling again). It’s the February melt look; it can hardly look worse. Everything is hideous.But such warmth meant that the bees were very excited, and all three hives came airborne in big numbers! It’s good for bees to get warmed up a few times in the winter, enough for them to be able to fly, so they can leave their house and poop outside. Yes, bees poop, and they’re housebroken, so they hold it until they can get outside rather than foul their house. It’s not good for them to hold it too long. I was planning to seize the warm day to feed them, but seeing the bees pouring out, bearding on the fronts of the boxes and making a cloud around each box, I figured I had to suit up. They were mild, not testy at all, and seemed excited to shake their wings out, get their buzz on.
 Small hive first- this is my swarm hive of 2018 (my first! eep!)

They have 2″ of styrofoam around three sides, and tarpaper, to promote sun-warming on the face of their box. For the first time, this year I wrapped their hives such that I could still get the outer lids off and replace their jars of syrup in the eke/lounge. I’m so happy with this; I have already been in twice, and the big hives have emptied their jars each time. It’s nice to see if they’re surviving, and feeding them will increase those odds.The cafe (top section) is filled with straw to absorb condensation. It’s doing its job- it’s wet and mouldy around the edges. Hopefully I can replace it once this winter too, because, mould spores. The empty jar lifts out and the full one goes in.
There is a ball of bees in there!
Because of the knot of bees, complaining *Hey, where’d our jar go?!* I have to set the jar back in *verrrrrry* slowly and carefully, so they can get out of the way. I don’t want to crush anyone or trap a leg.
Now dissuading bees to vacate the danger zone to re-lid.
Also verrrry slowly…
Hoo! No bees squished.

Again, January!!! Bees filling the air like it’s August. Crawling all over me, pooping everywhere. Little yellow dots speckling everything – my suit, the roofs, the ground.
Some poops are bigger than others. That’s one pictured low center.
Lastly, the largest hive, wintering in a three super stack.
I worked from a ladder in the summer when this was a skyscraping bee tower.I’m so glad all hives seem well.

There’s a big PS to this.

I wrote this yesterday (originally posted Jan 26 on Steempeak) and had trouble with the uploads, cursing my browser as my bedtime passed and the rain started and the wind picked up and picked up some more, and up, and up…

The wind got a little scary, rattling the house (overnight it ripped two pieces of roofing off the woodshed), and I abandoned blogging and ran out, afraid that a hive would blow over. The two bigger hives are ratchet strapped to the ground, but still. A gust of wind broke an alder off right on top of me, and the big hive shook. I put a few more clicks on the ratchets, and then I noticed the bees.

There were dozens of living bees on the ground in front of each hive, and all around – there are little twig-like plants about 8″ high all over – there were bees in singles or pairs clinging to the top of dozens of these, like life rafts. They didn’t look very alive, motionless with water beaded on their fur, but they were. Also little groups of five or so with their heads together (like a star anise) were clumped together on the flat wood “footings”. They’d been caught out. As it cooled in the afternoon, they’d been stuck outside on the ground, and climbed up as high as they could, and were clinging on in the wind and pelting rain to the tips of the twigs and each other.

The little twigs didn’t break by hand so it was easiest to get scissors and cut them off, and then use the stick it was gripping to poke the frozen bee back into its door and they dragged themselves inside. They were slow to let go, and could hardly walk or hold onto my fingers, but one at a time, I moved dozens of bees back into safety by flashlight, out in my bathrobe in the pelting rain. A few found my legs, clinging to me for warmth. This counts as an exciting night for me, but I did not get stung.

2 thoughts on “Spring break for the bees”

  1. Oh my goodness ! Before reading the postscript, I was going to comment on what an artist you are with the hives! So beautiful and practical! Now I want to add that you’re a Bee Hero, too!

    1. I can’t help myself. Let no bee be left behind. A successful hive inspection kills no bees, and one bee in the house, or a water bucket, or on my clothes, gets carried back home.

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