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.
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.