Tag Archives: winterizing

Bees Snugged I

The bees are almost wrapped.  They have their foam on, and I think I’ve really sorted out my wrapping method this year.

The hives each get foam on three sides plus tar paper, that wraps the front of the hive too and absorbs heat.  The foam I’ve figured out how to get it on quick and easy.  First, the three sided “box” is made.Look at my fancy two step carving- a nice seal.  Foam is so easy to carve. Then I tape that together with Tuck tape, including a strip up the whole seam.

All that crap needs to come off the hive first- the strap holding the supers together (in case of wind), and the scabs on the eke, and the arms that hold the lighting board.  Nothing screwed into the hive parts any more.  Then the foam hugs the hive, right up to the bottom of the outer cover, and two straps of Tuck tape right across the face of the hive hold it on – avoid the handles and openings so nothing sticky is accessible.  Done.  The tar paper will be next stage, but in the meantime, they just got a big R-factor upgrade.Naturally, I did this one after dark,  with a headlamp, because temps were falling, and I forgot the critical step: sealing the bees inside the hive, temporarily.  I was hugging the hive, jostling the foam into snug place, and then bzzzzz!  What’s going on out here?  My sleeve came away from the upper entrance with eight cranky bees on it, and more came out the bottom door.  Then I had to be very patient (I was in no mood to be patient- in the dark with a headlamp in falling temps), while each bee decided there was nothing to be concerned about and wandered back inside, one after also exploring the inside of my sleeve.  I did not get stung.  After they went in, I sealed them in and finished up.  They all have absurd and excessive extra “coverings” at the moment because of the forecast rain and snowstorm (right now hammering down).  It’s important to not get any water down between that foam and the hive, soaking into the wood, before I get the tar paper wrap, and I want to wrap them dry.  It’s very wet right now.  My lids all need a rebuild before they’re winter ready too, so in the meantime- draping.

My big idea this time is to wrap the tar paper in such a way that I can still get the lid off.  Then I can feed them through the winter, and monitor the moisture in the straw.  If we get wild episodes of warmth like we did last year, I’ll be able to take those lids off without unwrapping them.  We’ll see if I can do it.

Bee day

I was reducing the hives to get ready for winter (taking supers off for their more efficient winter acccomodation, which usually means taking honey off too.  However, Sunflower is the hive that split, and they did not have as much honey as I hoped.  I’m not entirely sure they have enough for themselves for the winter, and I debated bringing them down to one super, but I left them in two.

Pansy, the new hive, had the tidiest little house.  Just perfectly arranged, no burr comb.  Quite a bit of brood.  They’ve been systematically at work since being installed.

Nobody was excited about being sugared, and Sunflower had had it with me by the time I was almost done.  Thump thump thumpthumpthumpthumpthump  on my head.  I killed only one bee that I know of (right at the beginning of opening Pansy- I feel so bad whenever I kill a bee that was just busy going about her business).  I got a few stings.  They always sting the top of my thumbs (better than my fingertips), so now my hands look like they have a toothache.  The one on the left hand started to run around her stinger, so I thought she was going to spin out, but then she chose to pull out her stinger. I wonder why they make that suicide call.  If it has to do with the skin they’re stuck in that they think they can’t detach from it (maybe my thumbs are tough),  or what.  I’m pretty good with the stings so that I don’t flinch and flick them off, but I do keep working.

It’s a bit late for this step, but I was sick and it’s been raining, and there’s a week of nice warm weather ahead (and a long warm fall, supposedly).  What is late is their bee syrup (it was raining!), and while I was cooking it, bees were coming in the house.  Let’s have it.  It’s about time.

I fancied that the corks were disappearingSomething’s eating them!  They’re definitely disappearing.  What is gnawing on them?  Chipmunks, I presume.  Rotten thieves.

 

Will they or won’t they?

So far, so good.  The bees are still alive.

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.

Gift wrapping the bees

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.img_4765

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.img_4766 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.

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The white tarp stuff is actually the normal lid- built with scrap lumber and some tarp stapled over the flat top.

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:img_4768

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.  img_4769

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.img_4772

Oh!  There’s a bee!img_4775

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No one at the downstairs door.

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.

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The Salon filled with straw
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Last jar full, situated directly over the inner cover hole

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Having been told how to do it, it seems easy.

…with songs they have sung, for 1000 years

Whahoo!

My bees are alive!

(with the sound of buzz-ing)

We had an extreme cold snap (relative, very relative) here with a -20C night.  I didn’t think they’d made it.  I kind of had a feeling.  I’m really on the fence whether this hive will make it through their first winter.  Neither death nor survival will surprise me.

They had honey, but such small numbers….luck, chance, and the weather all have to weigh in before the winter’s out.

After that cold night – brrrr!  I couldn’t hear anything when I pressed my ear to the front of the box.  The wind was whistling hard, but still.

We’ve had a warm snap.  The kind where the above freezing temps suddenly expose all the old dog bones and buckets that blew away and random flagging tape on the ground, and you’re wishing for a snow asap to cover it all up again.

Today-lively humming.

Insulating the hive

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.

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We get serious wind. Dog “tie-out stakes”, or picket pins, that screw into the ground, are PERFECT.

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!

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The garden is now closed for the winter.

 

The fence is down, everything has been dug up or cut down, the sprinkler’s out, and everything is heavily mulched with the dead vines and stalks and hay.

There was some excellent kale, flourishing in the cold weather that we expected to be able to enjoy for some time longer, but once the fence was down the horse came in and enjoyed it first.  No more kale.

Action shot.

We put in a couple more sections of terrace (more than this picture shows), to accommodate most of the fall leaves and manure, and piled the terraces to overflowing with biomass, expecting great settling over the winter.