Saturday, January 28, 2012

Mid-winter Check

It's hard to call this mid-winter given the mild weather we've been having. I think I've used my snow thrower a total of 2 times (and since it was a new bigger snow thrower this year, it wasn't a chore). But after all, it is the end of January!

The weather this winter has been good bee-wise. We have had a few days of mid-40's to 50's, and that lets the bees fly and not have to be huddled up in their cluster the whole time. They can move around in the hive and hopefully reach more food when it is warm.

Today got up into the low 40's, so it was a good time to give the backyard hives a quick check. I wanted to see how they were doing on the sugar candy I gave them three weeks ago. I put in my bee jacket and veil, even though I was just going to lift up the lid and have a look (last winter I took a peek just wearing my winter coat, and a bee flew up and stung me on the forehead).

Here's a picture of the green and pink hives' clusters:

These clusters looked good, and they hadn't consumed all of the sugar patties yet. The brown hive looked just like the second picture, so I didn't take another picture. It was interesting to note that the cluster in the pink and brown hives was up to the inner cover (when I lifted the cover, half of the cluster was attached).

So I'll give them another couple of weeks before I look to add more sugar.

A few days ago the weather was in the 50's and my wife took some pictures of the bees flying. Since this is a bee blog, you can't have too many pictures of bees!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

52 Degrees In January?!?

I couldn't believe it - the temperature got up to 52 degrees this afternoon!

I still had to put out the bee candy on my backyard hives, and the weather was perfect for it. This early afternoon it was 43 when I started working with the hives. Cracking the cover, I saw the Brown hive and Green hive had appropriate looking winter clusters:

However the Pink hive didn't look the same:

I could see quite a few bees in between the frames; but I didn't want to disturb them. I am supposing that the bees have broken cluster due to the warmer temperature, and moved down in search of more food.

In any case, I added 2 pie plates of sugar candy to each hive (the same I added to Sutton). Here's what it looks like:

I gently (as much as possible) scoot the bees over and lay the candy right on top of the frames. You can see the (grey) shim which gives about 2" of space between the frame tops and the inner cover. I'll check them in about a month if we have a warm-ish day to see if I need to add more.

As mentioned, the temperature got up to 52 degrees later in the afternoon, according to the bee thermometer in my back yard:

With the temperature so warm, the bees were able to fly, and fly they did!

I was glad to see a good number of bees flying from the Pink hive, so maybe they were just lower in the box.

Since there are no flowers to get nectar from, the bees were mostly doing "cleansing flights." That's just a pleasant name for bees going out and going to the bathroom! And we had evidence of that - both of our cars were spotted with brown bee poop all over! It's good that they can do these flights, because during the winter the bees "hold it" and wait for warm weather, which can be months away. Not my idea of fun!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Who can take a sunrise, sprinkle it with dew...

During warm weather, if you need to feed bees, you feed them a sugar syrup solution. But once the temperature drops below 40 or so, this won't work. You hope that the bees have stored up enough honey in the combs to last the winter, but sometimes you need to do "emergency" winter feedings.

I put emergency in quotes because it's not the optimal situation, but it beats the alternative (starvation). For the winter you need to make and feed "bee candy."

Bee Candy is essentially sugar candy. There are a variety of recipes out there (you can Google search and find one you like), but you basically boil sugar and water until it reaches soft ball, almost hard ball stage. Then you pour it into pie plates and let it harden. You then set the bee candy on the top bars, and the bees can eat it. Some people like to use just granulated sugar for emergency feeding, but I had a bad experience with that and I prefer the candy.

Last year I learned a couple of things about making bee candy:
  • Hot sugar syrup is hot. Don't get any on your fingers when pouring!
  • Pouring into plain paper plates will cause the candy to stick to the paper, and peel a layer of paper off when you take it off the plates. This year I laid down a layer of aluminum foil first, and had no sticking.
Here are some pictures and comments. Not exciting, I know; but it may be instructional.

Did I mention that the hot sugar syrup is hot?

I lined the plates with aluminum foil this time. They are also sitting on insulated cookie sheets - don't want to run the risk of have a problem on the counter with the heat.

The finished products, all stacked up!!
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