Tag Archive | hives

Spring Cleaning and Reorganizing

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

With the cold and wet weather extending into April, the bees have been cooped up longer than usual, which makes for a slow start in terms of building up their populations and gaining access to pollen and nectar sources.

Last weekend, the temperatures reached mid-60’s, so I took advantage and did a full spring inspection, which involved:

  1. Checking for brood, larvae and eggs (indicates that the queen is present and laying)
  2. Cleaning the bottom boards (filled with dead bees and debris after a long winter of inactivity)
  3. Reversing boxes so the queen will bee located at the bottom of the hive with plenty of space to build upwards, and
  4. Providing clean frames in the box above the queen so she’ll have lots of space to lay many more eggs and move about freely.

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What I found was the following:

  • Purple Hive – small amount of brood, no eggs or larvae, lots of honey frames.
  • Mint Hive – Brood, larvae, lots of honey frames
  • Green Hive – No brood, no larvae, lots of empty comb, and lots of honey frames.
  • Blue Hive – No brood, no larvae, lots of empty comb, and lots of honey frames.

Based on this inspection, only Mint Hive appeared to have an active queen, so this past week I was sent searching across the US for three queens. I quickly learned that queen bees aren’t typically available til about the 3rd week of April, and most of those were spoken for, which meant no queens for the BooBees until well into May. Ugh.

It doesn’t take long for a queenless hive to deteriorate, and here I had three suspected queenless hives. So what’s a beekeeper to do with queenless hives and no queens?

Well, one option is to transfer frames of eggs and larvae from a healthy hive to queenless so they can make their own queen. The problem with that option was that Mint Hive did not have enough eggs and larve to share. Next idea? Check back later and hope for the best…

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The weather has been improving with each day, and this past weekend was gorgeous. Flowers and trees started popping from out of nowhere, and the girls were buzzing with happiness over our cherry blossoms. Seems good weather was exactly what the bee doctor ordered. I dug back into the hives and discovered good brood, larvae and eggs in all hives. A festivus miracle, indeed! And they saved me $75!

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The hubster laughs because 2 years ago I would’ve been Chicken Little screaming “the hives are falling, the hives are falling!”.

While inspecting, I pulled the jars of syrup. The bees have enough honey, they weren’t taking the syrup, so best to let them eat their natural food and save me the time and headache of dealing with supplemental feeding. They’re big bees now and able to feed themselves, so next week we’ll pull out the supers and give them space to start storing honey…for them and for us!

Lastly, during our spring cleaning and reorganizing, I collected old frames with dark wax comb that can be cleaned out and replaced with fresh wax foundation. Old comb is not healthy for the bees, so I’ll melt down and process the wax to use in balms and soaps. It’s tedious work, but I love the end product!

(Note: I wasn’t trying to be nostalgic w/ the b&w photo, I had no idea til they were downloaded. :o) 

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Strategies for the season ahead?

  • Setting up swarm traps
  • Checking regularly for queen cells
  • Adding a box with fresh comb between the bottom two boxes as needed to ensure they always have space; and
  • Split hives as needed.

The hubster said I have room for 3 more hives…and that’s in addition to reviving yellow hive – so who knows, I could have eight or nine hives by the end of this season. We shall see!  In anycase, the girls are now ready for spring. Yay!

Happy spring! I’m off to clean frames…

Bees are Springing to Life!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

We had a wonderfully warm high 50’s day and the bees were crazy!!!  I started into winter with 5 hives, and had one that died out and 4 that appear to bee thriving.  I couldn’t bee more excited!

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So now that spring is in the air and the bees know it, what’s a beekeeper to do?  Well, spring is all about getting those girls up and running ASAP.  They’ve been clustered all winter, so they have some catching up to do!  They’ve been feeding on sugar cakes, and they likely have plenty of pollen stored up, but to bee safe I whipped up a batch of my gourmet pollen patties.

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When temps are consistently in the 50’s, then I’ll put some jars of syrup on the hives and that will really get the queens laying so they can get their numbers up.  The more bees, the more nectar and pollen can be brought into the hive when things begin to bloom, and the more honey they’ll produce.

Remember those swarms last year?  Well, that’s what overwintered hives do when they run out of room and don’t have enough ventilation.  This year, I plan to stay on top of things and make sure they have both.  I also intend to plant several swarm traps around the yard, and we need to figure out where we can put more hives.  Yee gads, more hives you say?  Now you sound like my husband.  You’ve gotta put ’em somewhere when you catch ’em.  Of course, I’ve heard other beekeepers say they’ve had more success catching other people’s swarms than their own when using swarm traps.  Hey, that’s ok too.  My swarms are probably happily residing in someone else’s hive.

Temps will be in the 40’s and 50’s this week, with a chance of snow on Thursday.  Ugh!!  Just when we thought it was over!  That’s always a bad thing when temps are warmer, then sudden cold sets in and the bees aren’t ready for it.  Just shows that we’re not out of the woods quite yet.  Regardless, I’ll bee cleaning frames and adding top boxes with jars of sugar syrup so the girls can get themselves juiced up.

Would love to hear how everyone else’s hives are doing and their strategies for pushing into spring!  All the best for happy spring hives!

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Who’s Still Buzzing?

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The temps hit mid-forties this weekend.  In the middle of February, you take any opportunity to check on the girls and make sure they have plenty of food.  My last check was disappointing.  Mint hive was the only one that showed any significant activity, and yellow hive had died.  I since made a sugar cake, just incase, and upon tapping on the hives a few times over the past week or two, I was relieved to hear some signs of life.  But I wasn’t sure of their current states until today…

Pink Hive – This is what you want to see when you lift the cover… 

Pink Hive - looking good!

Mint Green Hive – A smaller cluster, but still going.  

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Green Hive – Small, tight cluster – looking good.

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Blue Hive – I could see how they were doing before I even lifted the lid. 

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Blue hive –  strong on the inside too!  

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Yay, four hives still going.  As happy as I was to see them, they weren’t happy at all to see me.  Mean little buggers.  I love my bees, but they really need to learn to be more gracious to the beekeeper who feeds them!

I’m never too optimistic for fear of jinxing them.  Anything can happen at any time, and we still have another solid month and half of cold weather (6 weeks at least if you listen to Mr. Groundhog).  They say March timeframe is one of the riskiest – that’s often when hives start to become active and can easily starve if they don’t have enough stores.  I’ll keep another sugar cake in reserve, just for added insurance.   As for why yellow hive died out – that’s a good question – who knows, mites, starvation.  I need to pull the boxes apart and inspect further, but if I’m not mistaken, that’s the only hive that never had a Texas queen.  My Texas bees are hardy and they seemed to thrive in the cold weather last year.  So this year I’ll try to split more hives from my Texas girls.  We really need to work on their temperaments though.

Here’s to wishing away the winter blahs and hoping for an early spring!

Sugar Cakes for Winter Feeding

Saturday, February 7, 2015

I took advantage of a recent snow day to make sugar cakes for the bees.  This is my second winter, so I’ve only made candy, which requires boiling and stirring and timing and thermometers and some messy clean-up.  Sugar cakes, on the other hand, are super simple to make and they provide a nice hefty block of food that will last at least a month or two in the hives.  It’s good insurance during these harsh cold months.

Here’s my recipe…

BooBee Sugar Cakes

Ingredients

  • 1 – 5 lb bag white granulated sugar
  • 7 oz. bottled or distilled water
  • 1 tsp Honey B Healthy or similar natural supplement and other additives as desired (lemon juice, cinnamon, etc.)
  • Two 9×13 baking pans or one double large aluminum baking pan from the store works well too, and reduces clean-up.
  • Parchment paper for lining the pan (optional)

Note:  You can also increase the water slightly and add some pollen to this mixture as well.  I just add pollen patties to the hive. 

Instructions

1.  Measure out your ingredients.

If you use the large bags of sugar like me, then a kitchen scale that weighs up to 10 lbs or more is handy.  Also handy is a kitchen helper who can offer an extra set of eyes to make sure your measurements are extra precise.

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2.  Add the water and Honey B Healthy to the sugar.

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3.  Begin stirring with a spatula or spoon, then just use your hands to work it into an even dough.

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4. If preferred, you can line your baking pan(s) in parchment paper so it can be easily transferred into the hives without falling apart.  The mixture will dry and becomes quite solid, so I don’t bother using a liner.

5.  Pour the sugar dough into the pan, spread it out evenly, and press it down tightly.

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6.  Use a knife to score and section off the cake before it dries.  I cut mine into 4 large pieces.  I’ll insert one block per hive.

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7.  Take your finished pan of sugar cakes and place it in a warm, dry room for at least 2 days until it dries out and hardens.

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8. Dig out the blocks and allow to dry a bit more.  Since the bottom doesn’t get air, it may still bee a bit moist.  Again, if you use parchment to line the bottom of the pan before pouring the sugar, then you can pull them right up and place the blocks into the hive.  But if you don’t line the bottom, then its a good idea to flip the block and allow the bottoms to dry, as well.

My pieces broke in some places, but for the most part, they are large, easy to handle chunks that will be savored and appreciated by the bees as they continue to survive a few more weeks of winter.  Now we wait for a nice 40-50-something degree day so I can quickly pop these into the hives.  Always good to bee prepared!

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Let 2015 Begin!

January 3, 2015

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Happy New Year everyone!  The past few weeks have graced us with occassional 55-60 degree days, giving me the opportunity to check on the welfare of my girls.  So far all five hives have been out and about, cleaning house, getting some orientation time in.  I’ve continued to restock their candy so they always have food, so we’ll just keep on keepin’ in hopes that spring comes quick this year.  No worries though, I have plenty of indoor activities lined up.

“The Bees”

The hubster bought me a book for Christmas called (what else?) “The Bees”.  It’s not a how-to book, but rather a fictional novel where the characters are all bees.  It got great reviews, and I’ll post my own thoughts when I’ve finished it.

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Of course I’ll be reading Michael Bush’s “The Practical Beekeeper”, “Beekeeping for Dummies”, and some other beekeeping books to help me keep up with the girls.

Soaps, Lotions and Potions…Oh My!

I’m obsessed with soaping and lotions and potions.  I made a batch of Goat’s Milk Hand and Body Lotion and Goat’s Milk Facial Lotion yesterday, and today I have a batch of Honey Oat Soap melting down in the crockpot as I write this.  I might even make a batch of lotion bars before the day’s end.

Check out the recipes on the main menu bar above!  I’ll add more recipes and how to’s for using honey and beeswax.

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Equipment Prep and Cleaning

It has to be done – Clean the hive tools, smokers and boxes.  Prep frames, and build and paint new boxes.  Build swarm traps. Plan out a new area for more hives (don’t tell the hubster) :o)

Planning out the Garden

Buying and starting seeds in the greenhouse this year???  Will be nice to use it for something other than storing bee equipment :o)

Happy Beekeeping in 2015!

Yep, lots of busy work ahead in preparation for what I hope will be a growing and prosperous 2015.  Best wishes to everyone for another happy, busy, productive beekeeping year!  I’m off to make soap….

 

Initial Prep for Winter 2014-15

Sunday, October 5, 2014

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I can’t believe it’s that time of year already.  Seems like yesterday we were chasing swarms and working to keep up with the spring explosion.  This year, it looks as though we’re going into winter with 5 hives.  I do no go into winter optimistically.  The bees are resilient, but anything can happen between now and spring.  I keep moving forward, try to do the right things and hope for the best.  I went into last winter with 3 hives and came out with 2.  Ventilation was the big issue.  Bees can handle cold, but they can’t handle wet.  The lost hive contained lots of moisture.  So above keeping them warm, I want to be sure the hives have good ventilation.

I took advantage of yesterday’s 70 degree weather to do some winter inspecting and prep.

1) Check for strong hives.  

I did not check for the queen this time, since I did find brood two weeks ago and the numbers look good in each of the boxes.  I’m not messing with them, since that does more damage than good.  Brood is at bottom, stores are at top.  My overwintered hives have lots and lots of stores, even Green Hive despite the robbing episode.

2) Checking for stores

Mint and Purple Hives, my two new hives, are lower on stores but feeding like crazy.  I’m continuing to feed them like crazy so they can stash it away, and I’ll give them both several frames of honey left over from last years hives.

3) Feeding 2:1 Syrup with Honey B Healthy

That’s 2 parts sugar to 1 part water – all hives are feeding right now in hopes that they’ll pack it away and have plenty to eat for winter.  I always use Honey B Healthy (HBH).  In fact, I make my own HBH which contains organic wintergreen, lemongrass and spearmint essential oils to help keep their guts clean and to help ward off varroa.   I’ll post the recipe soon!  Just as effective, and much cheaper than buying it.   If you do purchase HBH, use 1-2 tsp per gallon of syrup.

Mason Jar Feeders – I switched all of my hives to the mason jar feeders for several reasons:

1. They’re inexpensive and and easy to make.  Especially nice when you have a bunch of hives.  I simply drill 10-15 holes in the top center of the lid using 1/64 size drill bit.

2. They’re easy to collect and fill as needed.

3. I put 2 jars in, so when one empties, I can remove and they still have syrup left in the second jar until I fill the first jar up again.

4. Easy to see what they’ve consumed through the clear glass.

5. They fit securely within a medium box.

6. They dispense the right amount of syrup, so there’s less chance of it sitting and crystalizing.  And if it does crystalize, you can see it through the jar.

I place the feeders on a set of wooden or plastic chopsticks so the bees can fit beneath the jars.  After awhile, they become a permanent part of the inner cover as the bees glue them in place.

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4) Feeding Grease Patties

An easy supplement to help ward off tracheal mites.  Click here for my Grease Patty Recipe.

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6. Installed Mouse Guards

We had our first front/freeze warning, so I installed my mouse guards so the little critters can’t make their home in my hives.  I used the Brushy Mountain mouse guards last year, which worked fine.  But I find myself going with the easy, less expensive options as my apiary has expanded.  1/2 inch hardware mesh works great.  I set the entrance size to larger to prevent bottlenecking, and to allow for a bit more ventilation.

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That’s it for now.  Our first round of winter prep.  I have a few more tricks up my sleeve to help them out this winter, but the bulk of the work will be up to the bees!

Combining Hives – What NOT to do

Sunday, September 7, 2014

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Mistakes are Good…sometimes?

“Mistakes are good,” says Michael Bush, author of the book “The Practical Beekeeper”. But when you’re the beekeeper mucking up royally, and the bees are suffering for your stupid mistakes, it feels horrible! If you’re a beekeeper, then perhaps you’ve experienced those dysfunctional episodes where we decide to take on too much at once, we don’t do our research or plan our steps, then find ourselves running amuck in our white suits, surrounded by angry flying bees darting at our heads, with boxes disassembled and lying about.

That’s what happened to me. I inspected Pink Hive, which swarmed over 3 weeks ago, then returned to their hive and at some point swarmed again. I checked the hive about 3 weeks after the initial swarm, and the frames contained a small amount of older brood, no stores, nada. Like it had emptied out and dried up.

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Mint Green Hive is strong, but the hive’s location is horrible as it sits 4 feet in front of the other hives and faces the asparagus, which is now a fern-like forest. Being the adaptable little creatures they are, they simply changed their flight path to the side rather than straight into the forest. Regardless, this seemed like a good opportunity to combine the weak hive with a strong hive AND move Mint Hive all at once.

Dumb, Dumb, Dumb

First, I should know better than to come home from work at 6 PM and go out and take on a major bee project when the evening is quickly turning dark. I managed to condense Pink Hive. Then I put a sheet of newspaper on top and proceeded to disassemble Mint hive and add those boxes on top of Pink Hive. In the meantime, Mint Hive is waking up and starting to wonder “what the heck?”, and their foragers are returning and flying around in space (where their home USED to be just a few minutes prior) wondering “what the heck?”. I realized the magnitude of my mistake about the same time I realized I was wearing shorts and Mint Hive decided to attack my legs.

I ran through the yard, guard bees in hot pursuit, through the garage and into the house. Bees started buzzing through the kitchen and the cats came to life. My husband chased me out of the house and through the window I saw him waving his finger and giving me the parental head shake before he joined in with the cats to catch the flying bees.

When I was finally clear of bees, he let me back in the house to swap shorts for long pants and sandals for muck boots. . I ventured back up to the disaster area. I looked at the three boxes of angry bees on top of pink hive, then back at the lost bees flying in space, and determined that I had to move Mint Hive back to its original location. Ugh, it was getting dark fast, and they were MAD!!! I was also covered in attack pheromones, which didn’t help matters.

I worked as quickly as I could. I pulled the Mint Hive boxes back off. Of course, the newspaper stuck to the bottom box. I was working alone. I tried to pull off what I could, but it was stuck. I was surrounded by crazy bees and had to run for cover a few times, but I kept returning and finally managed to get Mint Hive reassembled. It wasn’t pretty. I went back to the house, still pursued by guard bees, some of which found their way inside my suit and were stinging me. I finally stripped off my gear, left it on the patio and ran in the house .

The next morning I gathered gear from the patio and walked up to see the state of Mint Hive. Those poor bees looked as though they’d been out all night trying to patch up the disarray. The boxes were misaligned, extending at least a half inch on some edges, legs and body bits extended from the seams, and a good 2/12 inches of newspaper flapped around the perimeter of the box. They saw me approach and immediately became defensive. The guilt was overwhelming.

Lesson Learned

Another lesson learned the hard way. NEVER ADD THE STRONG HIVE TO THE WEAK HIVE!!!! Condense the weak hive to one box. Open the strong hive and add a sheet or two of newspaper on top. Add the weak hive on top of the newspaper. Then add sugar syrup on top of the entire hive. If I had researched this first, I would have saved myself and my bees A LOT of stress and stings.

Combining the Right Way (technically)

I successfully combined Pink Hive on top of Purple Hive the following week. They were still stressed, and sadly the newspaper had somehow punctured, enabling Purple Hive to enter Pink Hive much faster than planned and resulting in fighting and a pile of dead bees at the base of my hive.

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By morning most of the fighting had ceased, and by evening the combined hive appeared to be at peace.  Thank goodness.  I suspect that I will be combining many hives down the road.  I can certainly say that I won’t make that dumb mistake again and my sincerest condolences go to the bees who lost their loved ones in the midst of my error.  But I am a better beekeeper, and as a result, future generations of BooBees will benefit from their sacrifices.  Amen.

Splitsville for Blue Hive

April 26, 2014 (Saturday)

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Spring is already passing quickly and I’m falling behind on my reports. All three hives are doing well, but blue hive especially is bursting at the seams, perhaps ready for a split…or two to help prevent swarming.  I’m seeing reports of swarms everywhere.  They say happy bees swarm, so I guess its a good thing, as long as you can retrieve them and place them back into your own hives.

With that said, I gave all three hives a good inspection last weekend…

Yellow Hive

I installed Yellow Hive about two weeks ago.  They’re feeding well, they appear active, they have some brood, but not tons of it.  The outer frames have new comb and they’ve built a comb ladder up to the inner cover. That tells me they’re ready for a new box so they can continue to grow.  Granted!  Yellow hive is now two levels high.   I closed ‘em up and moved on to Green Hive…

Green Hive

Green hive is just rolling along, not terribly active, not filled to the brim with bees, but doing ok.  I suspect they had too much space over the winter and had a hard time of it, but they made it through.  I reduced their boxes last week (04-19-14) from three to two, hoping that would reduce their stress levels by giving them less area to maintain.  They weren’t filling the space anyway, and this configuration seems to suit their size and activity much better.

I considered requeening, but decided against it.  And I’m glad.   Their numbers looked good.  They were out and about, they had some brood, the laying pattern looked fine, few drones, all indicators that the queen is still going, albeit slow.  When the time is right, they’ll make their own queen.  Besides, if I spend money on a queen, I want another BeeWeaver Texas queen like I have in Blue Hive.

Blue Hive

What can I say about these little buggers?  My little blue hive overwintered beautifully and has taken off.  Tons of bees, they’re super active, a bit temperamental, but busy laying lots of brood and more drone comb than I care for.  I fear this hive may be thinking about swarming in the near future.  No signs of queen cells, but lots of drone laid in burr comb.  So much so that the frames between the boxes are sticking together.  I read that adjusting the bee space between boxes will help with this, but I don’t know how to fix the space between boxes.  It is what it is.

This is a great time to split the hive, start a nucleus (nuc) colony, and see if they’ll make a new BeeWeaver queen.  I took out two bee covered brood and larvae frames (I probably should have taken more bees) from blue hive and replaced them with empty brood comb frames that I had in the freezer (pre-thawed, of course).   I added the brood frames and bees to my nuc, surrounded by wet drawn comb frames and a full frame of honey.

For feed, the hubster used his smallest size drill bit and drilled about 10-15 holes on the lid of a mason jar filled with sugar syrup.  Worked perfectly.

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 Welcome Baby Nuc

We’ll closed Baby Nuc for 24 hours.  The following evening, I placed a branch in front of the nuc entrance and added the entrance reducer on the smallest setting.   The branch will cause the bees to reorient themselves as they come out of the hive so they return to their new location rather than returning to their previous hive.

You may also notice that Baby Nuc is not painted.  I actually painted with with Linseed oil rather than paint.

Important to keep an eye on the night time temps.  If it looks like freezing, then Baby Nuc will come inside for the night.

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 The Hive Family is Growing

We moved our raised bed to make room for more hives.  We now have space for two more next to our existing hives.   If all goes as planned (which it never does, but if it does), Baby Nuc will transfer to an 8 frame hive, and I will split Blue Hive again using a much better method that I learned about AFTER making this split (of course).   Lots of bees in blue hive.

Of course, new hives  mean new colors.  Woo hoo!  I have the paint selected and sitting in the workshop, ready and waiting to be revealed!

The Girls Get a Bathroom Break

Saturday, February 22, 2014

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After 3 weeks of nonstop freezing temps and snow, we finally got a warm day. Warm enough that Green Hive 1 (GH1) and Blue Hive 3(BH3) could clean house a bit and benefit from a much needed cleansing flight.

At the end of January, we lost Yellow Hive 2. Just when I discovered what had gone wrong (hint: bad ventilation =moisture) the cold returned and I didn’t get the chance to make adjustments to GH1 to ensure it didn’t experience the same demise. I did, however, do something very stupid. I pulled out the mite board which I had inserted as a bottom board.  I should have pulled it out a few inches at a time over a week or two to allow them to acclimate.  But I didn’t know and instead yanked it out in one feel swoop.  But I learned that the cluster positions itself at the warmest location in the hive, and by drastically removing the bottom board just prior to a cold snap, I risked chilling the brood while also making it harder for the girls to stay warm.

My reason for doing this was:

  1. The hive needed better ventilation, and
  2. BH3 has no bottom board and is currently showing up its much larger neighbors. No ventilation issue whatsoever.
  3. Screened bottom boards also help control mites.

I will use only screened bottom boards from now on.  

So when I looked into GH3 earlier this week and saw an empty top box, I was prepared to write their eulogy. But today, although the top box still appeared empty, quite a few bees were buzzing out the bottom. I’m still unsure of their exact state, but I do know they have lots of stores, so they don’t have to come up top to feed if they don’t want to. The cluster may be hanging out in a lower box. I was just happy to see the activity and felt sad that no nectar was in sight.

BH3 has a huge cluster and they are eating away at the sugar candy. Rather than order a package for spring, I’m considering ordering 1 or 2 Texas queens from BeeWeaver and just splitting BH3. The bees are dark in color, they’re cold hardy, and they’re bred to be mite resistant. I like ’em!

Blue Hive 3 so far looking strong.

Blue Hive 3 so far looking strong.

I did make a few adjustments to help improve ventilation in both hives. The crazy boxes with pine chips have been removed. It’s been mentioned the chips could be blocking air circulation. I moved candy to one side of the frames, around the cluster, and not taking up any more than 1/4-1/3 of the frame space. And I inserted a chopstick into one corner of each hive to prop the top cover and allow for ventilation.

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Chopstick in corner beneath top cover helps ventilate the top without allowing much space for mice to get in.

I was so glad to see the girls today. I thought about pulling up a chair and just watching the show. Today was a great reminder that spring is just around the corner. Another few weeks of winter cold and we’ll bee in growth mode. Lots of decisions and preparations ahead. Lots of new lessons to learn. I can’t wait!

 

 

 

Winter Clusters – How Bees Stay Warm

I’m amazed at how hardy bees are in the cold.  Usually bees die in the winter due to varroa, nosema, condensation, and other factors.  Here’s an interesting explanation from HoneyBeeSuite about winter clusters and how the bees stay alive during the cold weather.

The cluster stays warm, the hive does not

Natural systems do not waste energy and honey bees are no exception. To survive the winter, a cluster of bees must keep itself warm. While it does this efficiently, it makes no attempt to heat the entire space within the hive.

The warmest place within a hive is in the center of the cluster. The temperature of the cluster decreases as you move toward the outside. The bees on the outside get so cold that they must rotate to the inside. If the inside of the hive were uniformly warm, this rotation would be unnecessary.

Of course, there is some heat lost from the cluster into the surrounding air, and because heat is lost, the bees must continually generate more. If you put your hand close to a heated iron, for example, you can feel the heat. The heat loss from the iron is similar to the heat loss from the cluster. You don’t have to move far away before you no longer feel it. The same is true inside the hive: the temperature drops rapidly as you move away from the cluster.

Nevertheless, the air inside the hive is slightly warmer than the ambient outside air. This is because the hive box itself provides a small amount of insulation. But the R-value of a pine board is not much, which means the difference in temperature between the inside air and the outside air is not great.

Heat rises from the cluster

There is one place in the hive that is warmer than the others, and that is the space immediately above the cluster. That is because warm air rises. One beekeeper in France measured the temperatures in his hive when the outside air temperature was 44°F. He measured 95° in the center of the cluster, 71° immediately above the cluster and 52° in other empty portions of the hive. Other beekeepers have found similar temperature gradients.

For this reason, an insulating layer placed above the bees reduces the rate of heat loss from the hive. Styrofoam, wood chips, or a layer of another material will slow the loss through the roof. But even this has its limits. For one thing, as the internal temperature gets warmer in comparison to the outside air, more heat is lost through the walls, so overhead insulation alone does not conserve as much heat as insulating the top and sides. It is a complex system with no easy answers.