Fall. According to the calendar, it arrived weeks ago. Even though the season is officially here, the daytime highs have still hovered in the 70s with the lows at night getting into the lower 50s - maybe down to 48 and then stop.
That was until today. Fall arrived here like a lion, complete with cold temperatures and blustery winds. Actually it got up to 50 on my home thermometer...but the constant barrage of heavy winds made it seem much colder...almost like winter. And for the next week, forecasters say the temperatures at night are expected to reach 35 to 38 degrees.
As most of you know, I've been concerned about winterizing my hive. A few weeks ago I put a mouse guard on...but then I took it off because I'm sure that the metal bar with the small holes was causing an air flow issue on warmer days. Plus I worried that if the bottom board got cluttered up with trash, like dead bees, that the colony could die from being trapped inside. Even though I know it is a necessity and serves a purpose, I am just not too crazy about the mouse guard. But as the season progresses, I'm sure I'll probably put it back on, just not right now. And I don't want my girls getting too cold from the cold winds whipping through the entrance and the bottom of the hive.
Now before I go any further, let me say that I'm not a carpenter. Truthfully, I hated wood shop in school. I barely made the required wooden key, one to hang your car keys on. But I made it so I could pass the class and to this day it hangs in my parent's kitchen (my Mom acted as if it was the greatest thing ever). I picked up enough skills in the class that if the need arises, I can create something. It may not be great, but hey, I can make it. And today was one of those days. I needed an entrance reducer to keep the wind out, and the ones I got from Dadant would not work. So with the few tools I possess, I got cracking in making a homemade entrance reducer, Mark-style!
If I had kept the old fashioned wooden bottom board, I could still use the usual Dadant reducer -- but with the new plastic screened board they sell, it will not work at all. They're too long in width and too narrow to cover the entrance (with gaps top and bottom). Sure I could trim the excess off, no problem there, but I can't fatten them up. They're worthless to me now. I sent Dadant an email and explained to them that their old fashioned reducers don't work now. Who knows what they'll do, maybe just ignore it.
Remembering I had some old political campaign stakes in my garage, I took them out and decided that they would work perfectly. So I got the current measurements of my hive entrance and went to work. It would be a little tough to trim it to fit inside the entrance with a hand saw, so it would have to sit outside the entrance -- but that's okay, at least it would block the cold wind.
So with my hand saw, I cut it to the width of the hive entrance which worked out fine. But then the question came up inside my head...how would they get in and out, Mark? No problem! I took my drill and a wood bit and cut a hole at the bottom, then trimmed the round part out...making an upside down U-shape for the girls to come in and out. Oh, and to keep it from tipping forward and falling off -- I came up with the dandy idea of placing two popcicle sticks under it and slightly forward, so I stapled them to the stake, thus keeping it upright!
So now was the time to test my homemade reducer. And not a minute too soon either, as I got to the hive, there was a fight underway -- the girls were dragging out a wasp that tried to sneak into the front entrance.
Okay, a drum roll please? TA-DA! Well, it fit okay, all except that I trimmed the width slightly short, leaving a slight gap. You guessed it, the girls were going in and out of the sides! It was a true Charlie Brown moment..I felt like a total block head. But after a few minutes, they started going in and out of the hole in the middle, although they were still using the gaps on the sides too. Oh well, at least the cold, blustery fall winds will not penetrate the front of the hive and chill the nest, not now anyway.
I plan to tweak this idea some, and I have a cousin who is a cabinet maker with tons of tools, so I'm going to see if he can work on an entrance reducer for me. Until that time, I think my girls will stay toasty warm at night, and be able to get in and out and maintain housekeeping in the daytime. So even though it wasn't perfect, it was still a success.
You know...that mouse guard might not be such a bad idea after all.
Until next time, BEE warm!