Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another peek under the cover - or - come and get it!

This is a continuation of the earlier post from Friday, January 15th, where I checked under my hive-top for the first time since the somewhat blast of unusual weather our region has experienced.  

We had yet another nice day here on Saturday. It was a little overcast, but the high temperature got up to a nice 57 degrees. Needless to say, it was another good day for my busy bees to be out of the hive too. And they were all over the place. 

As you recall, I checked under the telescoping cover on Friday. I saw my girls under the inner cover (above) but didn't remove it because I really didn't want to disturb them much. But as the day turned into night, I had this gnawing feeling that I really should have checked under the inner cover to see just how their honey store is doing. And I figured that if the weather was nice enough on Saturday, I would check again to put my mind at ease.

So Saturday rolled around and I went out again with just my veil. No smoker this time either. Curious, yes, but none of the bees were overtly concerned when I opened the hive. They rather ignored me to be honest. I took my hive tool and tried to pry an end frame out but that wasn't going to work. As most of you know, when propolis gets hard, its like glue, so those frames would not budge. But armed with my magnifying glass, I was able to peer down between the frames.

As you can see here, the end frame #1 had some open caps. In October, this frame was full of honey, but it appears that maybe they started eating from the outside and they're working their way in. As I was examining the frames from above, I took my hive tool and gently raked it across some of the open caps and they crumbled. So I knew they were empty and had been cleaned by my hygienic bees. No ooze or anything, just flaky white wax.

While the girls had a meeting to decide just what the heck was going on and why I was back for a second visit in two days, I moved over to frame #10. And as you can see on the inside of the frame, they still have some honey that hasn't bee touched. A few caps at the top had been opened, but for the most part, it was still full. When I took my hive took and touched a couple of caps, golden honey oozed out. So it looks like their food store is still okay, but I know that I'm going to have to keep an eye on it pretty soon to make sure they're okay and do an emergency feeding if necessary.

Speaking of feeding in winter, I've been reading a lot about winter feed and what some people do. I can already tell you that my bees won't get corn syrup because I've just heard way too much negative feedback about it and the problems it causes. And I know first-hand that sugar syrup will easily freeze in hive-top or Boardman feeders. So if it becomes necessary to feed my bees in cold weather, I think I'm going to try the dry sugar method that Michael Bush has discussed on his website. But instead of doing it like some people and sprinkling the cane sugar across the tops of the frames or on top of a newspaper, I think I'm going to make something sturdy to hold the sugar on the bars. And can you guess what I'm going to use? Corrugated plastic! As you may remember, I still have a few of those signs (simular to campaign signs) that didn't pass inspection, so now I've found a new use for them. When I make my newest project, I'll take pictures and show you how I did it.

Before I close, I noticed that even more pollen was making its way into the hive on Saturday. The foragers who returned to the hive while I was inspecting had varying amounts of pollen, some with nothing, some with just a small bit, and some were loaded down. Obviously my girls have been gossiping about the pollen gold mine out there and they decided to check it out. It was really good to see them working.

And one more note, I didn't see any small hive beetles in the hive, and as I examined my honeybees with the magnifying glass (one that would make Sherlock Holmes proud) - I didn't see any varroa hitching a ride either. Not very scientific, I know, but it made me feel better that none were under the watchful eye of my spy glass.   

Bee good, everybody!   


  1. you might want to try the mountain camp method, take a single sheet of newspaper and pour the sugar on it. Spritz with a little water and honey bee helathy or just water. They will chew through the paper and dont really have to leave the cluster. If you put a piece of plastic in there they have to go around it and on top to get to the sugar.

  2. Interesting point. My thoughts, but if they're clustered, I don't think they're going to crawl that far anyway be it newspaper or corrugated plastic. I've seen pictures of the bees on top of the sugar mounds that were poured on newspaper, so they crawled there anyway. My concerns are that when newspaper gets wet, it sticks to everything, and then it will collapse and get all inside the hive and turn into a mess. The corrugated plastic is sturdy and I don't think (least in my head..may be wrong) that the bees won't chew it up. Plus I can put cane sugar and Mega Bee on the same plastic. And when the weather turns nice, I can go back to sugar syrup in the hive-top feeder. To get a ruling, I sent an email to Michael Bush to get his feelings about it. I'll post it when it arrives.

  3. Hi Mark. I'm interested to hear your results on this becuase I'm about to do a feeding of my bees and am just working out what method I'm going to do. I'm leaning towards a candy board at this time.
    Re the corrigated plastic - you'd want to be careful not to trap too much humidty down below and then condensation. Without plastic that warm air would travel up and be vented out. Keep us posted.

  4. Hi Mark, it will be a very interesting experiment. Given all the years of beekeeping, isn't it amazing that there are still so many completely different ideas on the best way to feed our winter bees? Keep us posted please.

  5. I'm glad they are doing well, and you pictures are very nice. I fear my girls may not make it this year. I've fed as much as possible through early December, but it may be back to square (or hive) one. I did see a few hive beetles here last year. So strange how they showed up from nowhere.



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