This week the weather has turned more seasonal. Rain drizzle, Autumn leaves falling and cooler evening temperatures signals to me; mouse guards. As the temperatures cool off the bees cluster within the hive to keep themselves warm and at a constant temperature. The cozy bees hardly ever break from this group togetherness allowing a freezing mouse to waltz on in through the hive entrance. To a mouse this is like hitting the jackpot. To the bees the invasion spells disaster.
The mouse guard is a rather low tech device. Requires no wifi, or broadband. Just a wire cutter, some screen mesh to allow the bees to come and go but no entrée for a mouse. You can easily spent 15 bucks on a thin metal strip with some holes drilled into it. Or you can use wire mesh like I did. But believe it or not in this high tech world and the internet I couldn’t find a definitive answer in the mesh size. I ended up purchasing 1/4” mesh only to discover the bees were apprehensive about going through. A few did but I wasn’t satisfied. Several sources indicated a mouse could get through a 1/2” opening but the 1/4” seemed small. So I have determined 3/8” openings on the mesh are best. Ha, ha. I took a screwdriver and made the opening slightly bigger and voilà the bees acted like nothing was there. No sharp edges for wings or toes to get caught on.
Got a lead from the mail delivery person there was a gent who was wanting to get rid of some honeybees. They had taken up residence in a gate post made out of 8” well casing pipe. I explained to the landowner the best thing to do was wait until Spring and trap them out using the ‘No bee left behind’ method. I could smell honey emanating from the large entrance. Letting the landowner know the best thing for the bees to survive was to let them stay and feed off of what they have and are storing up for the Winter, allowed him enough information to understand leaving them was the best thing. He is aware of the benefit of honeybees to everyone’s survival. He didn’t want them exterminated and appreciated the informal bee education.
Wow, we are enjoying 75+ degrees here for the next few days before the temperatures get more seasonal. Last week we had a frost two mornings in a row, followed by two days of rain.
I installed 1/2” insulation board in the inner cover over the weekend because of the colder temps and then we have had this up tick of heat. The insulation addresses the tendency for condensation to develop on the underside of the inner cover which will then drip down onto the cluster of bees freezing them out. Honeybees can manage the cold but not the cold moisture on their bodies. The insulation is a buffer between the outside and inside temperature of the hive. Thus heat radiating upward from the cluster of bees when it hits the inner board will not condense.
I had concern the bees would get too hot since I have the entrances reduced and the insulated inner cover. But they are managing just fine. I still need to cut some quarter inch wire screen to use as a mouse guard. Nothing fancy but will work. When the temperatures get consistently cold I will wrap with black roof paper.
The Ohio State bee Inspector was here two days ago. All three of my hives are doing well. Healthy, well feed bees and a good queen have a better shot at making it through the Winter.
The apivar strips were removed yesterday. All the hives should be good until February when an alcohol test will be done and possibly do an oxalic acid vapor treatment if needed.
The date was May 16th, 2020. I was beginning to think it would never come. All the prep and anticipation over the Winter months and with Spring taking soooo long to kick in, my anxiety level was beginning to increase. We went through three postponed pick up dates. I knew it was the prudent thing to do and agreed with my mentor to wait. After all we were still seeing frost in May. I didn’t want all the work leading up to getting the bees to produce unsuccessfully results. I wanted the soon to be my bees to be set up for success! Nucs are more of an investment but considering you are getting a small established local colony with a proven queen, as a beginner I found it to be a justifiable expense. Not to mention it is a matter of opening the nuc box and transferring the five frames into the deep brood box. The leftover worker bees then worked their way into their new home and didn’t hesitate to begin foraging the new area for pollen and nectar.
Both nuc colonies have gentle temperaments making it much easier for me to perform the inspections.
Several weeks before the nucs were picked up the electric company contracted a tree removal company to clear their right a way. They happened to chip the trees which produced a large amount of mulch. Turns out they needed a place to get rid of the mulch. Seriously!! We’ll take it and knew exactly where it was going – straight to the bee yard!
This leads me to hive placement. Full sun and entrances facing in a southernly direction. Ventilation will become important during the heat of July and August. The sun keeps small hive beetles at bay. A southernly facing hive will not get as much wind. 18 inches off the ground is suggested by most. Predators like skunks will end up exposing their less dense hairy underside to bee stings when reaching up for a potential meal.