Winter bees

Every now and then we get warm days during winter. And that is a good thing for my spirits, and also good for my honey bees. Bees need warm days, above freezing, to take ‘cleansing flights,’ as they will not eliminate inside their bee hive. When our thermometer hit 50 degrees, I took the opportunity to make that round to lay emergency winter feed in the hives.

Take a look:

easton 11 22 14 vert

Easton was pretty funny because of the paper — see the white tissue looking thing hanging on the grass to the left? That came from the patty I left for them last month.

The bees in Easton were very busy around noon this day — removing dead bees, flying around to get some exercise, and for whatever reason…their entrance reducer was on the ground. This is not a new issue. A fellow beekeeper told me about finding a mummified mouse in her hive early this spring. I may need fasten the entrance reducer in case there is a mouse problem.

waukee 11 22 14 crop

Looking good, aren’t they?

In the next photo, from left to right, we have Younkers, Iola, and Weston. Younkers was producing many babies and comb and sucking down the syrup when I last inspected. Since I only see so far past the top bars of the super, I could tell that a. the patties from earlier were not even half consumed and b. there were a few dead bees outside the front porch.

Iola is the middle hive, and it had a few bees outside of its front porch. These bees also seemed to have quite a bit of the food resources that I left during my last visit.

My strongest hive of the season, Weston, sits on the right. It still seemed very strong with the population and vigorous activity.

Because these three hives sit in a low lying area with a drainage creek very nearby, I gave them a modified moisture quilt. The hills in this area can make it difficult for any fog to dissipate, so I’m really hoping for good results with the quilts.

The last beehive that you see here is Dale. Dale got a rocky start last year — its starter colony came from a storm damaged tree. In October.  The cluster had been sprayed by the tree removers before I got there. So they a. breathed chemicals, b. didn’t have any time to gather food or make comb and c. died during the harsh winter.

dale o 11 22 14 vert

This year’s Dale colony came from a package. The home owner is very motivated to help these girls make it out of winter alive, so he bought straw to increase their chances. I have to say that Dale had many more bees flying outside than the other four hives. Maybe the straw means that less bees were needed inside to stay warm.

Dale also had a LOT more dead bees outside than the other hives. I believe the dead bees came from the dumb bees in the hive that used to be right next to Dale. At one point over the summer, Dale was the weaker hive. However, as time passed, Dale remained vital and other hive failed to thrive. I tried to combine the dumb bees (seriously, they walked around like they didn’t know how to get ready for winter. That’s all they did — walk walk walk — for a couple weeks.) with Dale, and they failed. Or they were rejected by the stronger bees.

Anyway, all of my bees seemed to be doing fairly well. They have a long stretch of cold weather ahead of them, and it’s my job to help see them through. They have food, moisture control via notched inner covers, and insulation. I can’t wait to see them take their next cleansing flights.

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