Wednesday, November 5, 2014

That's a wrap

This has been a weird bee season for me. I had split my 2 hives into three earlier in the summer, and things had been going fairly well before August. But after we came back from our travels, again, there was no honey in those supers and two of the hives were very light on stores. One of them was in the middle of what might have been a supersedure, or the remainder of a hive after a swarm had left, hard to tell. No honey, no brood, no queen, I think they may have swarmed. I tried not to mess up the existing swarm cells and decided to feed heavy syrup to support them. Alas, a new queen never did make it, and the hive succumbed to some crazy robbing attacks. I ended up finding a ton of drowned yellowjackets in the feeder. They came in the bottom entrance and fought their way all the way up to the top feeder, so that was not a good sign at all. I watched that hive slowly die and cleaned it up today.

Very not very fun, seeing this pile of dead bees. Sigh. 

I had made some candy boards, just to prop up the two other hives and add them to my layer structure that worked well last winter. Here they are. It's basically a 2in frame the size of a super, with 1/2in hardware cloth as a bottom. In that, I smeared a mix of sugar (10lbs), water (2 cups) and a tad of vinegar (2/3 Tbsp) and HoneyBeeHealthy, which dried into a solid mass. I blocked out holes so the bees can access the top entrance and for condensation to go through the hole in the inner cover, like so:

I put this candy board on top of the 2 deep super I'm trying to overwinter. Then followed the inner cover, and on top of that goes an empty super filled with straw. I staple window screen to the bottom to keep the straw in place. You see the straw boxes in the front, but the hive next to it still has the feeder on. I took that off, with almost a gallon of syrup left in it. Lesson: Bees can only take syrup during warm weather, and that seems to run out around the middle of October around here.

Then on top of that, I put the outer cover. The whole sandwich tower was then wrapped in roofing paper. A job much easier done by 2 people, but today I was alone and wasn't feeling well to begin with. The bees don't like the stapler and who can blame them. They also don't like scary large flaps of tar paper flopping around in front of their entrance. I just don't like doing this job because it requires me to let go, lose control, let them do their thing. For me as the beekeeper, it's just wait and see from now on until March. Nothing more I can do for them.

You see in the foreground an empty top feeder that the bees were cleaning up. After a while I had the distinct impression that the robbers were back and I ended up blocking the top entrances with some wadded up paper towel. Because that entrance leads straight to the candy!
You can also see some clever stacks of that kind of plastic board that lawn signs are made of. A friend gave them to me to slide under my screen bottom boards. I like that solution, didn't require picking up those heavy deep supers to close up the bottom, plus they seem pretty good for insulation!

So hopefully, this is it for bee season in my own yard. Just like last year, I don't feel particularly confident, but only time and the kind of winter we will have will tell.... Luckily I'm the praying type.

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