Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Storm

Winters here are typically mild. This year, though, is breaking that trend. We got 12 inches of snow dumped on us last night. Normally we wouldn't see that much in a whole season.  Looks like this Winter will be quite a test for my bees & me.

Hives in the Snow

During the storm we had to clear the entrances numerous times.  I don't know how long a hive can survive with a closed off entrance.  I also don't want to find out.  They are calling for freezing rain on Christmas.  I may need an ice scraper before that's all done.

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The one piece of equipment that helps out the most in challenging weather is the extra wide roofs.  An 1/8 inch sheet of sheet metal extends 6 inches on all sides.  This adds shade in Summer & cover in wet or snowy weather.  The old farmer had them on when I bought the hives.  I never took them off and will include them on all future hives.

Speaking of hives I'm waiting for the next 40 degree day.  A day too cool for the girls to fly but warm enough to allow me to wash the outside of the hives.  Soap & water since I don't like the alcohol & ammonia in window cleaners.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fly Day

Today was the first day above 50 degrees in weeks.  The bees took advantage of that and broke cluster to get some much needed work done.  Cleansing flights, dead removal, reallocation of reserves to name a few.  The bees in Mary, only 1 box, were massed in the SE corner working the end frames.  Myrina's girls were also in the SE corner but mostly in the lower box, again working the end frames.

I really only went in because i needed to take the Apistan out.  The target date is Friday the 18th but it is forecasted to be freezing again by then. I also looked around Myrina some pulling the frames from the upper box.  All honey and as usual angry bees.  I saw no problems.

This time next month I hope to be feeding both hives with pollen.  I want to build up the population as best i can for the Spring splits I'm planning.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Screened Bottom Board & Winter

***Update (10/10)***
Now I close off all my SBB's in mid-October.  I use a bottom entrance and have an (insulated) venting shim/box between the inner cover & telescoping cover all Winter.  This provides passive air flow to allow humidity to escape without condensing in the hive.  Though half of the beeks in the local club keep their SBB's open all Winter I prefer to close mine.  For me it is a issue of brooding up early in Spring.  I open the SBB's up again once the nightly temps are above 60f.

I have a Dadant SBB on Mary.  It comes without a bottom sheet normally used for Varroa counts.  I can close it of with anything made of plastic or wood but I thought I might leave it open all Winter.  Moisture has been a problem with this hive so I want to vent it as much as possible.  Last year saw a puddle of cold water drip down through the hive during Winter.  I did not want to repeat that again. But, it has been a very cold couple of weeks & it looks like it will be a sever Winter.  The bees have been in cluster for almost two weeks now.  Last Winter we had fly days every week or so.  I took a picture from under the SBB of Mary yesterday and found a bunch of dead bees.  That is natural, i think, but concerning.  Since she is down to a single deep her cluster is very close to the bottom edge.

Dead Bees 

I sealed off the SBB this evening after work with a piece of luan.  I'll leave it there for the rest of Winter.  The Vent box is still on the hive so the humidity will continue to dissipate from there.  I have designed a SBB of my own that utilizes a deep tray beneath the screen and some adjustable side vents.  I'll post it when its made, after the New Year.  

Some beeks leave their SBB's open all year some beeks use only solid boards.  I guess I'll be taking the middle road on this issue.  SBB's all year but closed off during Winter.  The timing will be dependent on the weather.  But, I figure the hives will be closed off from December to April.

Myrina still having the Solid BB was left alone.  Both colonies showed signs of activity inside the hives.  As good as she is about her solid board I don't yet know if she'll get a SBB.