winter bee check

not much is going on with those bees outside, but you do have to check on them from time to time to make sure they are a -o.k. ma and i went and saw how they were doing in this rather mild winter.

the first step is to get a rough idea on how much honey they have left in stores – ma lifts them to see how much they weigh.  this is a pretty subjective measure, but ma has been keeping bees long enough that she knows what a light hive feels like and what a heavy hive feels like.  those that still feel plenty heavy she doesn’t bother to feed them, she would rather have them eat their honey stores.

lifting the hive to check the weight

ma has been feeding the bees whose hives are light some cane sugar – she leaves them plenty of honey reserves but just to be on the safe side she does provide them sugar as an additional source of food.  after several seasons of trying different methods she has decided this is the best way to make sure they make it over the winter.  there are plenty of other methods that work, but this seems by far the easiest, and most trouble-free.  lay down a sheet of newsprint on the inner cover, cut a slit in it in the middle, sprinkle the sugar over the top and spray it with some water to moisten it.  this has been a mild winter and that means they eat a lot of honey.  unlike liquid feed they can eat this at any temperature – and they prefer not to eat it, so will only eat it as last resort assuring they eat the honey reserves first and not the sugar.

sugar on the inner cover

ma put this sugar on the hive a couple of weeks ago and it looks like they haven’t touched it.  could mean they are dead, so she would want to check to see if they are still alive.  notice that the inner cover has been flipped for the winter.

in order to check to see if the bees are still active the easiest way, least disruptive, and one least likely to cause chilling to the bees is to knock on the side of the hive.

knocking the side of the hive

the idea is simple, place your ear against one of the brood chambers (where they make the baby bees, and the bees cluster for the winter) and give it one solid knock with your fist.  in our experience it’s usually the second chamber from the bottom that has the bee cluster in it.  just after the knock you should hear a sudden quiet – but distinctive rise in buzzing sound.  the first time you do it is pretty magical.

all the hives seem to be doing well, the only last bit of buisness to take care of was cleaning out the entrance.

cleaning out the entrance with a hive tool

using a hive tool you simply pull out the dead bees that have fallen to the bottom board.  it’s completely natural for bees to die over the winter and of no concern – unless they are in great numbers.

on last thing i’d like to point out is the fact that ma did all this bee keeping dressed in a mini skirt and leggings,  she is by far the fanciest bee keeper i know.


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