Beemused: A Blog

Winter is Coming: Closing the Hives

25th November 2007

Winter is Coming: Closing the Hives

Today I removed the front feeders from all three hives, and adjusted the mouse guards to cover the entire hive opening. The mouse guards are metal (so the mice can’t chew through them), with bee-sized holes (so the bees can leave the hive to fetch water, etc.). It was a bit of a sad experience, because dead bees are beginning to collect at the entrance. I know it is the normal lifecycle of the hive, but I get a bit silly about my girls! I’ve been know to spend time I really can’t afford, shepherding stray bees out of the studio, one by one.

I haven’t installed the hive wrap yet, as it is still getting warm from time to time. Since the wrap is black it would tend to warm up in the sun, which is OK when it’s 20 degrees out but not if it is 60 degrees.

We still have to cut up the comb honey for use and distribution. And of course we can make plans for next season!


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12th November 2007

Our own beeswax!

Today I did something that I’ve been meaning to do for a while now: scraped bur comb off the bee escapes and queen excluders that had been in our hives. I did 3 of the six, and plan to complete the other 3 soon.

One reason I’d waited was because I was acquiring some beeswax-dedicated equipment. I now have an inexpensive pan and strainer (for melting and straining the wax), and some disposable pans into which I can put the strained wax.

So: today I scraped off the comb meanderings the girls had attached to the various pieces. I melted them at a very, very low temp. on a hotplate in my studio (which is more appropriate for non-edible work than the kitchen, I decided), then strained it into the disposable pan.

So cool! I have maybe a half-cup or so of wax- not that much, but more than I’d thought I’d get from this. I also have weird grunge in the pan, consisting of propolis, bee parts, and various other unknown things. Once I get the other 3 hive parts cleaned off, I’ll discard that.

The melting wax made my studio smell just lovely, too. :)

Besides the bur comb, we’ll get some more wax from the honey we plan to extract and make into mead. All told, it might even be enough for a candle or something!

I’m planning on looking up recipes for hand creams, etc. that use beeswax and/or propolis. I’ve read that propolis can be a help with skin conditions, and I have a few patches of eczema that are annoying. I’d like to try out hive products on them (especially since I love Burt’s Bees products quite a lot!).

I am also thinking that with the girls’ passion for making propolis, we should probably add propolis traps to the hives next year.

Tomorrow is supposed to be warm- almost 60F here. We should be sure that the girls have syrup in their feeders, in case they want to take advantage of the warmth.


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7th November 2007

More syrup for the bees

Although it was raining this morning I distributed the syrup that Amanda had prepared. It was chilly and hardly any bees were visible until I eased the Boardman feeder out of the entrance. A few dozen bees ventured out onto the “porch” while I filled the feeder. None were stirred to come after me, fortunately, for I was just wearing my rain jacket which is hardly bee-proof!


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1st November 2007

Winter is Coming: more preparation of our hives

We have successfully fed our 3 hives the syrup in which the anti-bee-diarrhea (nosema) medications were dissolved. Now- in general, we are crunchy-granola types in a lot of ways, and we are interested in organic beekeeping methods. But yet- at this point, we’re even more interested in doing what we can to ensure our girls overwinter successfully, and while we debated the issue, we decided that the nosema meds were a sensible thing to do this year.

We are also feeding syrup, to do what we can to make sure they have all the stores they can handle. And in another few weeks, we’ll be wrapping the hives in hive covers- insulation, to help them stay warm. The girls need to be at roughly 80F all winter, and even higher once the queens start laying again. While usually our temperatures don’t get that low, we’ve been seeing a week or so of below-zero temps most winters- and that could kill our girls, so we’re doing what we can to help them out.

At this point Mary is not all that keen on syrup. Yeah, she’ll take some- but not all that much per day. Liz and Susan are still swigging it down, though, so we have another 2 10-pound sacks of sugar awaiting syrup-making. In general, while cool temperatures slow tham down, the feeders we have do go into the hive, so they can feed even when it’s chilly (but not really cold) outside.

If we get another day with the temps in the 60s, we should do a quick hive inspection. And if the girls have outer frames that aren’t filled with honey and/or syrup, we might want to replace such with in-hive feeders that hold a gallon of syrp each. Italians aren’t as clever at getting to food in the winter as Russians are, but if they have not packed their hives with stores, we can supplement them.

We have tentatively decided not to plan on buying more bees next year. We’re not sure if we can build a top-bar hive over  the winter- and I am quite keen on trying one of them! Plus- this summer all 3 hives are likely to swarm, so we will be getting into the joys of swarm management… and that often means splitting a hive, and thereby increasing the number one has.

We also need to think about re-queening. Overwintering will be a test of our strains! but so far, we have to give Mary props for being insanely productive and pretty mellow. Liz is productive but more stroppy- not aggressive, because she really only objects to being messed with and calms down quickly when we stop- but she’s definitely touchy. Susan is mellow but not especially productive. If we had more hives, or if there were more honeybees around, I’d be interested in breeding Mary. I am definitely keen on propagating her genes if we can! But if we requeen with purchased bees, at this point it looks like Susan’s the one we want to do, possibly with someone with some Russian in her, and maybe Liz- though the Russians seem to be stroppy in general, so I’m not sure we’d get a benefit there!

It would be so cool to have enough land that we could have 50 hives or so, and really do some breeding!

Next year we also want to get some equipment for extracting honey- if we don’t this year.

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