My bees might just make it! This weird, hot-cold “winter” can’t be good for them.
It was warm enough for me a couple days ago to take the lid off and give them a jar of syrup (amazing. In February!), but I was sick with worry. No bees outside, on a warm day. I was pretty sure I was going to find a dead hive when I lifted the lid. Ugh.
But instead, I found a black knot of bees around the empty jar! Yay! And hardly any dampness, or mold in the eke insulation, which indicates moisture. In fact, it was more dry than last year. I gave them a full jar, put the the lid back on, and then the guard bees came shooting out while I was taping them back up. Hey! You’re jostling us!
This winter with its crazy yoyo temperatures has to be hard on them, but they are still humming in there. Hope they can make it. I can’t open and feed them again yet.
I lost the big hive, my original hive, quite suddenly at the end of last summer, and these, the new bees, didn’t have long to get established, and God forbid, they may have been infected with the crisis from the other hive. But so far, they’re ok. I’m tense about it.This is two bees at the upstairs door, walking around on the tarpaper the hive is wrapped with. On warm enough days, a few come out walking around or flying.
I got my first chance to get into the hive. We´ve had a warm, early spring, so I’ve been feeding them, and anxious for the right warm day to come, so I can give them the third super. They´ve been unwrapped since the end of April, but this is the first time I´m going to the bottom of the hive, and the inner lid is coming off.
Phew, a chance to dump/brush all that scrap straw off the inner cover.
Since I´m going right to the bottom of the hive today, I´m wearing my bee suit. They might get testy before I get done (They didn´t. My bees are so laid-back).
The hive´s doing very well. Saw the queen – she´s so huge. Two queen cells, so they´re up to something, but I don´t think division. They might be replacing her, as there was caped brood but no brood less than a week old. I´m leaving that alone. Still, or already, a few solid frames of honey.
It get´s a bit out of hand with all the frames, and spare supers, etc, planning how I´m going to shuffle and redistribute frames.
I´m also happy to get these original plastic frames that the nuc came with up to the top super, so I can take them out this year.
Mostly my bees have been well behaved, only a little bit of bulging honey frames. A couple of burr combs full of honey that I had to break, and honey dripped all over- that keeps them occupied.
It’s time to wrap up the bees for the winter – December 1st or before the snow flies.
This year my hive is much stronger, and larger, and they will be wintering in two supers, plus the Salon.
One 2×8´sheet of rigid styrofoam is perfect for a two-super hive – three 32″ pieces.
Three sides get wrapped with foam, tar paper only on the front, so the black helps them heat up inside on sunny days, maybe enough to go for a cleansing flight. All this is what I learned from my “bee guru” at Bello Uccello. I cut the foam very precise to use the overlap designed into the foam (which means the back piece is custom). Otherwise the corners will leak cold. Then a couple of pieces of Tuck tape to hold it all in place for the tar paper wrap.
The 2″ thick foam sticks out farther than the outer cover/lid, so I also cut a step in the foam to nest the lid into. I’m doing it a little different than last year.
Then the paper:
It wraps flat around the front of the hive, covering the doors and shutting the bees in completely for a few minutes. They can’t love that.
There’s a little artful paper slicing required to make everything fold flat and smooth around the alighting board. Lots of staples on the front – no wrinkles.
Then it’s time to cut out the doors.
Oh! There’s a bee!
The Salon, aka drone cafe – the empty/feeder box above the inner cover (I’ve called it the Salon since they started doing art installations in there) is already filled with straw (to help insulate and absorb moisture), and the bees just finished their second last jar of syrup for the year. Now they will be closed in with their last jar.
I did this thing last year with the lid/outer cover, and it worked quite well so I’m repeating it. One piece of basic “pebble” styrofoam cut exactly to size, jammed into the underside of the lid.
Then a piece of corrugated cut to size as well, so the bees aren’t in direct contact with the styrofoam ever. This gives them an inch of insulation on the ceiling. When I took it apart last spring the cardboard was damp on the edges and I threw it away.
Just after I closed the lid and was doing the final touches on the edges of the tar paper, the bees started buzzing outside in droves.
I thought I’d agitated them, but it may have been that time of the day, or the sunny day had warmed up enough right then to go for a fly, but they were on a group cleansing flight, which I realized when I noticed all the bright yellow poop dots on my hands and sleeves!
This is what I’m doing differently this year. My final step was taking another piece of tar paper over the top of the lid, folding gift corners and taping it down to the sides (instead of tacking the tar paper to the lid). In theory, if I need to get a jar in there in the early spring, I can take off the lid by slitting the tape and tape it back up; it won’t be very disruptive.
Then I put a metal sheet (actually a piece of shelving that happens to be a perfect size) over top of the whole thing and ratchet-strapped it down. The oversize temporary winter lid puts an extra 8-10″ of eave over the front doors.
Only two days late- that’s as close to on time as I get around here. Seconds after finishing, while I was carrying tools away, snowflakes started to fall.
Last year I was so worried about them. They’d re-queened three times in the year, their first, I got them late, and they didn’t have good numbers. But they made it through.
This year I’m a little more confident. It’s interesting to me, all the local former beekeepers (no one nearby currently has hives) never wintered their bees! They bought nucs in the spring and they died in the winter. Sounds expensive.
November has been harsh. We’ve had three hard freezes. That’s not supposed to happen yet! I’ve been throwing a duvet over the hive on the cold nights, hoping it helps some.
I wrapped up the beehive for the winter, with 2 inches of rigid styrofoam and roofing felt. I don’t love this. What did people do before plastics and tarpaper? There has to be another way. But anyway, I made the tri-fold foam into a three-sided box (the front doesn’t get foam), using the lap joints and taping it up with Tuck tape. Then I wrapped it all in the felt, stapling it on.
As I worked, a few sentry bees came rocketing out, angry. It was cold though, so these were suicide missions. They would come out, buzz around angrily, then land on something, and be too cold to get back into the hive. I picked one still bee body up off where it was clinging to a branch and placed it on the upper hive doorstep. Within a second, pffft! The bees threw the body back out. I guess that one was dead. I put another motionless bee on the doorstep. They pulled it into the hive! Maybe for a little bee cpr. I put two or three more bees back in when I finished, in case they weren’t dead yet.
I did the front last, because for a few minutes, the bees are entirely closed in, until you cut out their entrances out. They may not like that.
When I cut out the upper entrance, there were two bees sitting inside, looking out. Hello bees!
The bees are coming. I’m off to bee school to beecome a beeginner beekeeper.
We assembled the fresh new hive supers, etc. from Country Fields Kind of guessing at how it even goes together at this point, but I need to bring the box, because, hopefully, I’ll bee bringing back bees in it.
Made a lid for it. After bee school I will have to make a stand and a couple other pieces, but not immediately. No postponing a lid, though.