I won’t have much to say about our adventures in beekeeping for the next couples months. What’s there to talk about? The bees are hunkered down in their hives at least until the new year. I may add a few photos to the Hives in Snow post to document the Newfoundland weather our hives have to contend with over the winter (though we usually don’t get any heavy snow until after the new year). I might write a review of a few beekeeping books if I have the time. Other than that, I don’t anticipate a great deal of beekeeping posts showing up on Mud Songs until February 2011.
On the left: July 18th, 2010. Our first hive started from a nuc box. On the right: November 23rd, 2010. Our second hive, with two deeps full of honey, wrapped for the winter.
I’ll probably feed the bees some pollen paddies near the end of February — if the bees aren’t dead. I will very likely feed both colonies some sugar syrup sometime in March to get the queen laying for spring. I’ll stop feeding them in April. We plan to start up another two hives from nucs next year, so when the weather warms up, I’ll start pounding together the frames and the supers for those hives.
THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE IT WAS ORIGINALLY POSTED.
Here’s a video of what we did yesterday. We didn’t record the entire hive wrapping process (stapling the felt to the hives) because it would have made for an even longer and boring video. However, this Long Lane Honey Bee Farms video demonstrates what’s involved in the actual wrapping. (He uses a spacer to cut down on condensation. We use upper insulation instead.) In our video you’ll see me pointing out everything we’ve done to prepare the hives for winter. It’s not the most exciting video, but actually seeing how something works or doesn’t work is usually more instructive than photos or descriptions. So here it is:
THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DECEMBER 13, 2013.
Here’s the low down on exactly how we wrapped and prepared each of our four-month-old double-deep Langstroth hives for winter:
1) Built and installed the world’s simplest, cheapest mouse-proof entrance reducer and made sure to check the hive for mice beforehand.
2) Flipped the inner cover to the winter position (with the flat side facing up) and placed a piece of hard insulation over it. The insulation has a R-7.5 rating, whatever that is. Apparently, R-5 or above will keep the condensation from forming in the hive. It looks like this before the top cover is added:
THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED. (I GOT MY ANSWER.)
I noticed two of these little grubs cocooned and burrowed in the insulation of one of my hives today. This photo shows a close up the grub after I cleared away the web-like cocoon. It’s about 2cm long.
Can anyone tell me if this is wax moth? I’m guessing it is. Second question: What can I do about it at this time of year? I just wrapped the hives for winter. I don’t plan on messing with them again until mid-February at the earliest.
I scraped away the grubs along with some earwigs. I’ve seen one or two of these grubs in the cracks of the outer cover a few times over the summer, though not in any kind of cocoon. I scraped them away immediately. I’ve never seen them inside the hive, though I haven’t done a full hive inspection since September.
As far as I can tell, the colony has been healthy and active with a strong population and plenty of winter stores. My feeling is the bees can handle it. I’d rather leave them alone. I welcome anyone’s advice. Thanks.
UPDATE (Nov. 22/10): I’ve had time to dig a little deeper and I got my answers. Yes, it’s a wax moth larva. And no, I shouldn’t have to worry about it at this time of year. From page 119 of The Backyard Beekeeper by Kim Flottum: “Once the outside temperature goes below 40°F (5°C), the temperature essentially halts all moth activity (but does not eliminate them), and your supers are safe for the winter, no matter where or how you store them, as long as it stays that cold.” That’s good enough for me. The colony is otherwise healthy and strong and will probably deal with any remaining moth larvae on its own in the spring. Had I noticed large number of wax moth cocoons and larvae in the hives during warmer weather, I would have had to freeze the effected frames for 48 hours to kill all remnants of the moth. We’ll cross that bridge if we ever get to it. Back to winter relaxing now.
Drone bees are kicked out of the hive before winter because they’re not essential to the winter survival of the colony. I was told not to be alarmed to find piles of dead drones outside the hive any time during the fall season. Plenty of drone pupae were discarded from the hive in September, but no large numbers of dead drones until today.
I take this to mean the bees are getting serious about winter now — and I better hurry up and wrap the hives before winter sets in. We have nothing but rain, wind and snow in the forecast for the next few days.
But I’ll get the wraps on as soon as we get a break in the weather.
(Yeah, I know, it’s not the most earth shaking news, but how exciting can beekeeping get this time of year?)
I ordered some beekeeping books based on recommendations from various beekeeping forums — and I’m looking for other recommendations if anyone has any. Here’s a photo of the first batch of books that just arrived:
I’ll do a separate write-up for each of these books after I’ve read them. From left to right, the books are:
The ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture, by A.I. Root and E.R. Root — Originally published in 1877, followed by several revised editions, this is basically a 700-page beekeeping encyclopaedia. I have the 1947 edition. Other books with exactly the same title made shopping for it a bit frustrating. I chose this edition because it was the most affordable ($35 Canadian). I guess it’s good to have around.
The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden (Revised and Updated), by Kim Flottum — Detailed instructive photographs make all the difference when it comes to beekeeping guide books (and websites), and this book is packed with them. I’ve only skimmed and read bits and pieces of it, but it seems to cover all the bases. I can tell already it’s a good buy. I plan to read it before any of the others. ($20 Canadian.)
Fifty Years Among the Bees, by C. C. Miller — Originally published in 1915, everyone says I should read it because it’s still informative (most beekeeping knowledge doesn’t get old) and it just a good read. ($15 Canadian.)
First Lessons in Beekeeping, by C. P. Dadant — Originally published in 1934, it’s another classic everyone says I have to read, so I’m going to read it sometime over this winter with the rest of these books. ($10 Canadian.)
Has anyone read any books I should add to my list?
UPDATE (Dec. 21/10): I added “Bee Behaviour” to the related topics of this of this post because of some informative comments (and responses) about the behaviour of certain breeds of honey bees, which helped explain some of the behaviour of our bees.
Here’s what I see at this moment.
NOTE (Nov. 15/10): I’ve been busy with work, life and house renovations (the latter being the worst of the bunch). I still haven’t wrapped my hives, but when I do, I’ll probably follow this lesson from Long Lang Honey Bee Farms.
By the way, I highly recommend their online beekeeping lessons to anyone who wants to get into beekeeping.
By the way #2: The Mud Songs sidebar links to other online beekeeping resources that have helped me along the way. They’re all worth checking out.
More later when I have a chance to come up for air.
This may be the last video I post of our hives this year before we wrap them in tar paper for the winter. It’s not much, about a minute long, just a few quick clips from the last time the bees were active. The first few clips show Hive #2 with a small inverted jar of syrup over the inner cover hole, the inner cover having already been flipped to the winter position. The last couple clips show Hive #1 with a larger-than-normal number of drones pouring out the mouse-proof winter entrance reducer. I thought all the drones would have been booted out of the hive long before now, but I guess not.