Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ready for Winter? Not Quite...

Today was great bee-weather! The temperature got up to 60 degrees, and the bees were out this morning. Here is a picture of my backyard hives:

I took the opportunity to go visit the Sutton Hives. I hadn't been over there for a couple of weeks; last time I left some sugar syrup. Sure enough, it was empty when I visited today. But I also saw that there wasn't much in the way of stores there, so I am going to have to feed some more. I thought I would be done for the winter preparations, but not so!

Here is a picture of the Sutton Hives:

I'll probably feed my backyard hives as well.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

More Winter Preparations

The bees are into the winter mode of operation - with the weather being cold (less than around 50 degrees) they don't go out. So they stay huddled in the hive passing the time (do they have cable TV in there??)

I have a couple of liquid syrup feeders still on the backyard hives, and I went out to check / remove them. I still had some feed for the Pink hive (since I used smaller jars on that hive), so I put that jar on that hive. It turns out the Green hive still had about an inch of syrup in the feeder. I didn't take off that feeder - I'll check in a week or so and remove it if they still haven't taken it all in.

Some people wrap their hives with black roofing paper for the winter. The purpose is to keep drafts from the hive (since hive bodies don't always fit together perfectly, especially over time). Last year I didn't wrap my hives, and I won't this year either - they sit at the edge of a wooded area, and I feel that the drafts won't be too bad there.

There are two other pieces of preparation I do. One is to add a piece of Styrofoam insulation in between the inner cover and outer cover. I buy a large pink sheet of it from the hardware store:

Then I put an inner cover on the sheet and cut out a piece slightly smaller than the inner cover. Then I cut a small channel from the middle of the piece of Styrofoam (where the hole in the inner cover) to the outer edge (where the notch is in the inner cover). This allows air to flow out, taking moisture out as needed. Here's a picture of an inner cover and the resulting piece cut:

One of the things which will kill a beehive over winter is for moist air to hit the top, condense, and then drip cold/freezing water on top of the bees. Having the channel is supposed to keep the air moving a little. I also put a piece of Styrofoam loosely under the bottom screened board, just to keep the wind from whipping up through the screen unimpeded. Last year things worked out well with this arrangement, and I am hoping for similar success this winter.

The other item for winter is a Mouse Guard. Since a beehive is nice and warm in the winter, it makes an attractive place for a mouse (or family of mice) to spend the winter. Since the bees are in a cluster and can't leave it, the mice won't be bothered. But they make a terrible mess of a beehive - they chew the wax, bring in nesting material, and urinate everywhere. So you put a metal guard over the hive entrance with holes big enough for the bees, but small enough to keep out the mice.

Last year I forgot to put in the mouse guards, and was lucky to not have any visitors. This year I wanted to put them on. But I had a problem - I didn't have enough (I forgot to buy one when I bought the Pink hive, and the Sutton hives don't have any).

Here's a picture of a regular wooden entrance reducer (in the foreground) and the metal mouse guard (background):

So I decided to make my own. When I was at the hardware store buying the Styrofoam, I bought a strip of aluminum corner material you use when you put up wallboard. I cut the pieces to size (easy to do with heavy scissors) and drilled some 3/8" holes (same size as in the other mouse guard). Here are the results of my labor:

Pretty inexpensive! I went out and put the mouse guards on my hive (using thumbtacks and a hammer). I had a lone bee come out and check me out, since I was pounding on their door!

I still need to put together a few 2" shims to use when/if I need to feed some fondant in the winter. I'll put the shim under the inner cover, so it leaves a gap for the sugar fondant.

[Update 1/8/2012 - corrected hole size from 3/4" to 4/8"]
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