This is what I prepared the hives for. It is so different going into the Winter months with bees. The song by the BeeGees (lol) – “Staying Alive” comes to mind. Thankfully the Winters here are not extreme. This snow accumulation of three inches has lasted for around week but is all gone now. Just enough snow to let us know Winter is coming.
Each morning I make my way to the bee yard. I inspect the entrances and look around the hives. Then I stop to listen. Even with the snow flying and the temperatures dropping I can hear the amazing hum of the bees in the hive. It is a peaceful and almost comforting sound to me. I know they are alive and well and that puts a smile on my face. On the surface it would appear nothing is going on until you can hear them. I have discovered I can hear the bees better if I go to the front of the hive near the top entrance/ventilation notch. This way I don’t make any noise on the walls of the hive. I also read somewhere that making noises such as knocking on the sides of the hive causes the bees to consume more honey. In the Winter the more honey they can conserve the better.
I was amazed when I learned honeybees do not hibernate and stay active all year long. This why when the temperatures get over 40 you will see bees flying about. Cleansing flights are performed and some even come back with some pollen.
During Winter the bees cluster and stay warm. They go into a state of torpor when the temperature gets cold. Torpor is like intermittent ‘hibernation’ or a low energy state to conserve their consumption resources.
Tomorrow the forecast is for a high of 54 degrees and then the temperature will dip down to 19 degrees on Christmas Day! Crazy, eh. I will be on the look out tomorrow for the busy little gals taking cleansing flights and cleaning up the entrances.
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.
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.