Tag Archive | dead

Do Bees Hibernate?

January 31, 2016 (Sunday)

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Temperatures got up to a whopping 54 degrees today!  After weeks of freezing temperatures and a 3ft snowfall, I finally had the chance to check on my girls and restock their candy supply. 54 degrees is still somewhat cold for the bees.  I certainly wouldn’t start pulling out frames and breaking apart boxes until the temps are at least in the 60’s.  Below 50 degrees, the bees begin to cluster.  Bees need to cluster in the cold because that’s how they generate heat and stay warm.

What Bees Do During the Wintertime

People often ask me if the bees are hibernating.  Well, bees don’t really hibernate.  Yes, they collect food to prepare for the winter, and yes, they stay in their hives during temperatures below 50 degrees.  Once the temps drop into the 40s or lower, the bees cluster around the queen and they use their wings to generate heat.  The larger the cluster, the more heat they can generate and the better chance they have of surviving the winter, as long as there’s enough food in the hive to keep them from starving.  Bees don’t sleep.  They work around the clock…each one has a role and a purpose.

Opening the hives in temperatures below 50 degrees risks breaking the cluster.  Best not to disturb the bees in the cold.  When the cluster is broken, or when bees get separated from the cluster in the cold, they can freeze.  So my rule of thumb is, if I see the bees out and about, then it’s ok for me to open the tops of the hives and add candy.

Checking on the Girls

I schlepped up to the hives to find them flying in full force, and judging by the blanket of bees atop the blanket of snow, they’ve been super busy cleaning house.  This is a good thing.  They clean all the dead bees and debris out of the hives whenever possible.  This helps prevent disease and keeps the colony healthy.  They’ve also been busy taking orientation flights (another term for much needed potty break), and bringing in pollen.  Yep, the little buggers found pollen in this desolate white land.  Gotta love their spunk!  It was a happy sight, indeed.

RIP Green Hive

I’d been anticipating the demise of Green Hive since the last time I’d checked on them.  Lots of bees were flying in and around the hive.  I also noticed some bees fighting at the bottom entrance (shown below).  A sign that Green Hive was being robbed by the other bees.

I opened the top and sure enough, the other bees were robbing the remaining candy and honey, and Green Hive’s cluster stared up from between the frames in a dead, frozen state (shown below).  Not one of my prouder moments as a beekeeper since I decided to take them into winter with two boxes rather than combining them with a stronger hive.  Another lesson learned…

Freezing temperatures are best for preserving dead hives since parasites won’t infest the hives as long as the temperatures are freezing.  Once things start to warm up in March, I’ll clean it up and get it ready to take in a new split colony in the spring, along with Blue Hive.

Recycled Swarm Trap

As I walked around the garden I noticed that the swarm trap that had been left up since last spring, has been claimed by some other form of wildlife.  I suspect squirrels.  They chewed large holes in both sides, and another hole that appears to be stuffed with garbage – plastic, paper, and who knows what else (shown below).  Well, if it couldn’t house a swarm, then I’m glad something else found a good use for it.  We’ll build another one in a few months and hope that it catches more swarms than this one did.

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After this weekend, we’re all back in cabin fever mode.  Hope it won’t be too long again before we get another reprieve.  Stay warm everyone and let’s hope Mr. Groundhog doesn’t see his shadow.  Early spring would bee nice :o)

 

 

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RIP Yellow Hive…Again

Saturday, January 17, 2015

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Winter is a period of worry and uncertainty when it comes to the bees.  Yesterday was in the 40’s, so I took the opportunity to peek in on them and add candy.  The only hive that showed any sign of life was Mint Hive.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t clustered down in the bellies of the hives keeping warm, but it certainly stirs up anxiety about what I did, should and shouldn’t have done, and whether I’ll have any hives left by time spring gets here.

Yellow hive, my strongest going into winter, was found at the top clustered and dead.  They had plenty of stores, the hive looked dry inside.  Maybe the cold got to them, maybe they starved regardless of stores, maybe they separated and froze.  I don’t know.  When things warm up a bit I’ll get in and take a closer look.

Last year when this happened I was crushed.  This year, its disappointing and frustrating, but not the end of the world.  If I lose all 5 hives, then I’ll most certainly be on the verge of hanging up my bee suit.  But I’ve got too much invested, and I love my bees.  Worst case, I’ll learn from my mistakes, start with two new packages in the spring, and get a better plan in place for next winter.

All the best to everyone else’s hives this winter.  Stay warm, read up, and get that equipment prepped.  Doesn’t seem like it now, but spring will be here soon!

New Package for Yellow Hive

Monday, April 14, 2014

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It’s that time of year, everyone is getting the call to pick up their packages and nucs for spring bee hive installations.  I added myself to the list early on as a safety precaution, and I’m glad I did because yellow hive has been sitting empty since February.  I received the email on Friday that my package (a 2 lb box of bees complete with queen) would be ready on Monday as early as 7am.

Mother Nature Not Helping

I figured I’d go pick up my new bees early and get them installed before heading to work.  But mother nature had different plans.  After a most perfectly gorgeous spring weekend, I woke up to a cold, cloudy, and insanely windy Monday. Ugh.

I thought the day might warm up in the afternoon, so I left at lunch, picked up the girls (still cold, windy and cloudy), went home and got them into their new digs.  I’ve never installed a package before.  It wasn’t difficult, now that I have a little bee experience under my belt.  But I can see how it would be intimidating for a beginner.  Keep in mind though that bees without a hive to defend are naturally docile.  They fly around but they aren’t aggressive or stingy.  Regardless, wear your gear as a precaution.

What’s a Package?

A package includes 2 lbs of bees (about 3500?), a can of sugar syrup for feed, and a queen cage containing the queen and several attendants.  Queens are marked a different color each year so you can identify her and the year she was installed.  This year is green.  All of this comes in a nice compact wooden screened box. You can imagine the buzz during our ride home.  The girls were very excited!

Installing the Package

I’m sure there are many ways to install a package, but here’s what I did, and it worked like a charm.

1. Hive configuration:

1  8-frame box
3-4 center frames w/ drawn comb – (keeps the queen safer and gets the bees started more quickly)
2 frames of honey – one on each side of comb frames (feed for cold eves – more freezing temps expected)
3-4 fresh foundation frames on the outside edges (to allow room for growth).

2. Spray 1:1 sugar syrup to settle them down and occupy them while prepping for the install. (see below)

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3. Remove several center frames to give space to dump bees.

4. Remove can of syrup. Bees will start flying at this point. (see below)

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5. Remove queen cage and set aside. (see queen cage below)

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6.  Take the large wooden box, with the hole facing top, lift it a few inches and slam (not too hard) the bottom on a hard surface so that the bees drop into a ball at the bottom of the box.

7. Then slam (again, not too hard) the side of the box on a hard surface to further condense the ball of bees into the corner of the box.

8. Turn the box over and shake the bees out of the hole, dumping them into the open center area of the hive.

9. Repeat steps 6-8 until most of the bees are emptied into the hive. (see below)

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10. Gently add the frames back into the center of the hive. Bee very careful, they won’t drop in completely right away because of the mounds of bees located at the bottom of the hive, but gradually the bees will move up onto the frames and the frames will lower into position.  Be patient with this step.

11. Poke a hole through the candy in the queen cage.  This helps facilitate the eating of the candy plug that allows for the release of the queen over a course of several days.

12. I insert my queen cage differently, and it has worked for me just fine. Insert the queen cage between two frames, under the top bars, embedded within the comb.  I insert mostly horizontally with the candy side tilted up slightly.  This prevents the exit from being blocked should any of the attendants die.  A blocked exit means the queen can’t exit the cage.  I also place the screen side down so the bees have easy access to the queen.

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13. Once everyone is installed, I close her up and feed, feed, feed with 1:1 sugar syrup.

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14. Some bees will likely be loitering in the wooden box.  Place the box with left over bees on the ground just beneath the hive entrance.  They’ll all march into the hive when they’re ready.

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Freezing Temperatures and a New Package

Not a great combination, but it is what it is.  We had freezing temps all week.  As long as the queen is inserted within drawn comb with easy access to the bees, and as long as the bees have honey stores to feed on, then all should be well.  You don’t want the queen to bee on fresh foundation.  The bees might easily cluster away from the queen, leaving her to freeze.

Several Days Later

I checked on the hive Thursday (3 days later), the queen still hasn’t been released, but she looks alive and well.  All the bees are active and building comb fast, all over the cage and up to the inner cover.  Giving it one more day.  If she isn’t released on Saturday, I’ll dig out the candy and free her into the hive.

Yay! Yellow Hive is Back

We’re all happy to have Yellow Hive back in action.  Of course, Blue Hive was curious and had to come out and see what the fuss was all about.

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Green and Blue Hives 

Green Hive is still slow.  I suspect they have too much space, or the queen may be doing poorly, so I’ll need to combine it with Blue or Yellow Hive, or find a new queen soon.  Blue hive is active, but hoping they become more active as the weather warms again.  This fluctuation in temps is crazy.  Regardless, we’re in full swing now so let the decision making begin!

Coming soon – DIY solar wax melter, soap making, and harvesting beeswax from comb.  Woo hoo!