One is the Loneliest Number

With the weekend upon us, we took advantage of a calm, albeit cool, day outside to button up the hives for winter. We removed the sugar water, and installed the insulating shroud and rigid foam top on the hives.

Hive No. 1 was a little angry with all of the poking and prodding, but we got them put back together quickly.

Unfortunately as I was preparing hive No. 3 for the insulation, I didn’t notice any bees moving about. I put my ear to the hive and didn’t hear anything. Taking a chance with the cold weather, we cracked open the hive to confirm our suspicions. Hive No. 3 was empty. The hive died out basically.

We knew the hive was in trouble a few weeks ago, but with a queen and some brood, and lots of honey left, we figured they’d survive. Well they didn’t.

We pulled all the equipment off of hive No. 3 and cleaned it up. I’m going to extract the mid-sized super, 10 frames. We cleaned off all of the deep frames from the lower two boxes. One box was basically empty and the other had a decent amount of honey. Because we had treated for mite, and no telling how old, or what shape the honey was in the one deep box, we just dumped all the honey and wax scrapings into the meadow. We’ll probably have a bear problem next.

Hive No. 1 is still strong and will hopefully make it through the winter. If it gets big enough we can even try and split it next summer. We will not be buying new bees next year. We need a break from buying bees, and beekeeping in general.

One thought we had going forward was to embrace the fact that our bees will likely die out every year and start working on harvesting pollen and propolis. That sounds like a lot of work though. But at least we’d be using the whole hive when they die out.

Oh well, we have all winter to not worry about it. The bees we have are happy and there’s nothing left to do except wait for spring to arrive in the meadow.

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Autumn Bee Check & Early Winter Hive Prep

We did a quick bee check of all three hives today. It was a fairly temperate day, and we just had our first frost, so all the signs point towards checking bees while we still can. Snow will be upon us soon enough. This is probably the last or second to last check of the bees until spring

Our goals for checking the bees in fall:

  1. Start moving honey frames towards the center – the bees will form a big warm ball of bees in the center of the hive, likely the middle or lower deep. They won’t go far to get honey, even if they are hungry. Also they likely will move up the hive, so it’s important that the middle deep is where most of the honey is at
  2. Check for mites – hives 1 and 3 both have mites, so we decided to treat all three hives with Hop Guard.┬áMites create bees with deformed wings, kill baby bees before they hatch and generally cause decline in bee populations. The cardboard strips of Hop Guard are placed over the deep frames, two to a hive box. They are not placed in the honey “supers” higher up in the hive.
  3. Treat for hive beetles – hive 1 has beetles so we decided to put beetle traps in all three hives. The trap is just a clear injection molded compartment that we fill with safflower oil. You can use canola oil, or other type of cooking oil that’s lying around. The beetles check in, but they don’t check out.

Later on this month we’ll install mouse guards to the entrances. These sheet metal shields are perforated to allow bees to come and go, but they won’t let rodents enter the main entrance of the hive. Up top we’ll place a queen excluder screen to keep the mice out of the top of the hive, as well.

Sometime in November I’ll fashion insulating shells, from 2″ rigid insulation. The insulating shells will protect the hives from what is supposed to be a very cold winter. This will be a pain to do every year. I’d like to invent a hive with rigid insulation built into the boxes. This would regulate temperatures year round just like an old hollow tree trunk would (that’s my theory at least).

The bees seem happy, as happy as bees can be. Hive No. 2 should be fine, as should hive No. 1. Hive No. 3 is lagging behind honey-wise and bee population-wise, so I’m uncertain. All three hives have eggs and / or a visible queen (we saw hive No. 1 queen today).

Here are today’s photos including a bee birthday.