August 2016 Bee Check

It’s been a busy, exhausting summer for us. Thus not too much desire or time to write on my part. But I will fancy you with an update on our bees, whom we haven’t checked in on in a few weeks.

Both hives are doing surprisingly well. Hive No. 3 is very strong with lots of eggs, larvae, and capped brood. Their honey stores are looking good. There are two boxes above the queen excluder that are filling up with honey, but nothing is capped enough for us to extract so we’re leaving them be.

Hive No. 1 is bouncing back slowly from it’s fight with the mites. It’s a dark vacant feeling hive, but there are enough bees and honey for them to rally in late summer. And there are brood and eggs so there’s still a queen in there. This is the hive that tried to kill us. In a way it’s sad to see them so tame and “knocked down” so to speak. We won’t take any honey from them this year.

New Hive No. 3 for 2016

Last week on Monday we got the email informing us that our package of honey bees had arrived. The thing with a honey bee package is, you basically have to drop everything and go pick them up, and drop them into their hive. So despite a busy life, work, sick kid schedule, we went out and picked up our new fuzzy friends that afternoon.

We had two friends stop out to watch us dump our new bees in to hive No. 3. It was fun to share the experience with newbies (new-bees?). Everyone suited up in protective gear and we had an uneventful dumping of the bees.

The type of bees we got this year is Italian; which is the type that we’ve always gotten. That being said, we wonder if our hive No. 1 bees are a different kind. They, the hive number one bees, are very dark and very aggressive…and very productive and prolific. The new Italian hive number three bees are very light and docile. We swear they must be two different types of bees. Carniolan is the other type of bee available from our supplier but those are supposed to be docile too, just like the Italian ones. Who knows. Regardless we learn the temperament of our bees and act accordingly.

We checked yesterday and confirmed that hive No. 3’s queen did get out of her cell and the bees had started making comb. Both hives are getting sugar water, though hive No. 1 doesn’t really need it. We’ll stop supplying that hive this week. All the crab apples in our yard are in full bloom as well as ground flowers and tree pollen. There is plenty of food for our bees as we go into May.

Here are photos from “bee day” 2016.

Winterizing Our Bees

We had two temperate November days this week. Taking advantage of temperatures in the 60’s yesterday we prepared all three hives for wintertime.

We checked the yellow jacket traps; emptying and replacing the soda inside as necessary.

All three honey bee hives were a flurry of activity, especially hive No. 3 which had a cloud of bees out front by time we were done. Thankfully hive No. 1 had a lot of bees coming and going from its entrance.

Winter Prep

  1. Locate as much honey towards the center of the upper deep box (second box from the bottom). I actually did this the last time I checked the hives a few weeks ago.
  2. Put an entrance reducer in place for each hive. Once again, did this a couple of weeks ago to combat yellow jackets
  3. Removed the sugar-water feeders from the top of the hives. They were all still fairly full so the bees seemingly stopped taking sugar-water, which is normal. Also removed the empty mid-sized super that shrouded the feeders
  4. Installed a new form of insulation on all three hives. You may recall last year I made a shroud out of rigid insulation for the hive, which worked well but was labor intensive. It also fell apart when I took it off, so assembling it may have been a challenge. This year we got pre-made insulation “blankets” that wrap around the hive. They’re basically heavy-duty black plastic, garbage bag like material, with insulation inside. I slid one over each hive. The hives are set up in this order: deep, deep, medium super, top board. I stapled the insulating blanket just below the top board (inner cover), which leaves enough space for the bees to enter and exit in the front, down low. Take a look at the photos below for a better idea of what’s going on. I used staples, but push pins would work too (I just didn’t have any handy). The insulation should be reusable year to year. It’s a new product so we’ll test it out and see how it goes.
  5. On top of each inner cover we placed nearly a full bag of sugar. The sugar will absorb moisture in the hive all winter and crystallize. Theoretically it will provide a source of nourishment as well, though I’m not sure if that’s right. The wife got this tip from a fellow apiarist at the grocery store of all places. We’ll see. I’m not sure what harm it could cause, so why not.
  6. I placed two plastic shims on top of the inner cover and then installed the outer (telescoping?) cover. This gives the roof of each hive a little angle to shed water. You may not recall but I inserted a strip of 1/2″ wood along the one side of each outer cover to make them “air tight” when the wasps were attacking. Normally the cover has some play left to right which allows insects (and mice!) to get into the hive up top. By leaving that strip in it’ll make a tight seal up top and hopefully allow the hive to retain more heat during the winter as well as keep pests out.
  7. Lastly, I will put some rigid insulation on top of the outer cover to keep heat from escaping. I use the pink stuff I have left over from last year’s insulating shroud.
illustrations by nate skow via

illustrations by nate skow via We don’t use a queen excluder, but everything else if pretty much how our hive is set up for winter. The bottom deep is virtually empty in some of the hives. All the action happens in the upper deep.



So everything is looking good on the bee front. Hive No. 1 is doing well, just have to see if they have enough honey. Hive No. 2 has plenty of honey hopefully, if there’s any left over then we will harvest that in the spring. Hive No. 3 should be have enough honey, but I doubt enough that we’d harvest next year.

There’s nothing else to do bee-wise now ’til spring. Stay tuned for some posts on an indoor project I’m working on right now. Until then, keep warm.