Its a beautiful sunny morning here. The bright sunshine is deceiving. It is still below 32 degrees Fahrenheit at 9:00 AM. After my coffee in the morning, as is my habit, I take a stroll to the bee yard and check the entrances and walk around the hives. I put an ear to each one to listen to the steady hum of the hive. Since I have screen bottoms, I pull out the “gator board” – corrugated plastic cardboard- to look for any moisture. The cold isn’t as much of an enemy to the bees as is cold dripping moisture. The bees naturally cluster together to stay warm. This warmth gently transfers to the surrounding air which rises and contacts the surface of the colder inner cover. If the inner cover is cold enough the warm air will condense back into water, collecting on the surface and then dripping down on the cluster. This scénario is a death sentence to the hive. Thus the reason to place insulation board on top of the inner cover after flipping the inner cover over to allow the notch to serve as a ventilation pathway and provide another bee entrance. I wasn’t satisfied with the 1/2” insulation so I added another insulation boards to provide an inch of insulation. It looks like it is doing the job. The hives were placed in a southeasterly direction for the purpose of maximum sunlight and lessened winds. The black rhino wrap is doing a fine job as well. The front and partial sides were nice and warm to the touch.
The time has come to wrap the hives in preparation of Winter. I cracked open the outer cover to see how the bees were managing. All looks well. I placed the bee fondant on the top of the frames and then snugged the bees back up. I’ll check again within the next couple of weeks when we have another warm sunny day before the real cold hits. I am curious to see if the bees devour the fondant and make an accessment of the new wrapping material.
The back story:
I was informed there was ‘tar paper’ or roofing felt in the machine shed I could use to wrap my bee hives with. Turned out what I found instead was ‘Rhino roof underlayment’. It’s a synthetic thin yet strong liner. It is waterproof and should block the Winter wind along with with absorbing the warmth from the sun. It was very easy to handle and secure to the hives. I just took some measurements, cut the liner with scissors and a draw knife. Then headed out to the bee yard after grabbing some black 1.5” wide inch vinyl tape and staple gun with 5/16” staples.
With a break in the weather and lots of sunshine I decided to make some bee fondant or icing. Thankfully I have made hard tack candy before during the holidays and know it takes some patience to reach the appropriate temperature. In this case the sugar concoction has to stay below 234 degrees. That’s a good thing because it takes a long time to evaporate enough water to achieve the temperature. Temperatures over 234 degrees will alter the sugar in a negative way for the bees.
Temperature slowly climbing
After 234 degrees you remove from heat and let it cool down to 200 degrees. Then get ready to spend at least 10 minutes whisking the mixture until it turns white and starts getting slushy for lack of a better word. Then you finally pour it out on to wax paper with a dish towel underneath it.
These patties of fondant or icing can be stored in a ziplock bag in the refrigerator. I’m holding off placing these in the hives until the weather consistently stays cold. When that time comes I won’t be opening up the hive again until the next occasional warm day. Then I can report back on how well these worked.
Well things happen! All the while the focus has been on the bees I didn’t consider the repurposed playhouse (which is now a small tool shed) getting blown away. Yesterday it was windy all day and into the evening. There were lots of limbs and branches down. It was a bit unusual to have so much wind.
The tool shed which houses my smoker, toolbox, bucket of hay and robber screens is a repurposed Little Tikes playhouse. The playhouse has been a brooder house for red golden pheasants, an infirmary for a recuperating chicken on occasion , and a garden shed. It even survived an electrical short from a brooder lamp to keep peeps warm. It just keeps on giving. Now it is safe and secure.
It was a chilly 30F this morning. The bees weren’t out so it made the repair work much easier without them buzzing around specially since my helper gets nervous around the bees.
The forecast for the week is showing a warming trend. It will be a welcomed break for the bees and us before it starts staying cold.