I added a medium super to both of our hives today (for a total of two on each hive) and installed double frame feeders in each. The frame feeders are designed for deep supers, but two mediums will also do the trick.
I added the 7-litre double frame feeder to Hive #2 (on the left) above the inner cover because the bees were sucking the syrup from the Boardman feeders faster than I could refill them. (The Boardman feeders were sheltered inside a medium super to keep wasps away.) We did a full inspection of the hive yesterday and noticed three or four empty frames, meaning those bees need to build a lot of honeycombs fast to have them filled for the winter. Adding the frame feeder is the quickest way to feed them, so that’s that.
But Hive #1 is a different story…
Hive #1 (on the right) has always been ahead of Hive #2. It hasn’t been too active for the past two weeks, though, since drone
larvae pupae were discarded and we got hit with Hurricane Igor. I also noticed the bees were bearding a couple days ago, often caused by poor ventilation or congestion within the hive. I couldn’t get hold of any experienced beekeepers for advice, so I took matters into my own hands and lifted the inner cover today to see what was going on. Without having to pull the frames, I could easily see they were all fully drawn and packed with honey, and there were plenty of bees rushing around. So maybe the bees are congested. The queen might even be honey bound. Either way, both of those scenarios mean the bees need more room. (But don’t quote me on that.)
So, technically, I’ve expanded the brood nest. The first honey super holds eight foundationless frames (that’s all that can fit with the double frame feeder installed). The medium super on top is in place simply to hold the frame feeder. If the queen is honey bound, the worker bees, theoretically, will clear out honey cells for brood and build honeycomb in the new honey super. I would eventually remove the honey super before winter, but for now, it seems they could use the room.
Then again, this could be the worst thing I could do to a hive at this time of year. I don’t know. I guess I’ll find out.
P.S. (a few hours later): I’m not concerned about Hive #2. I just checked it and the bees are working like mad sucking up the syrup, coming and going like a strong colony of worker bees. But the bees in Hive #1 are behaving in a manner that’s almost out of character for them. That colony is usually active to the extreme. Some foragers are still coming and going, but it’s a trickle compared to what it’s usually like. Which is strange because there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of bees when I look inside the hive. So I’m not sure what they’re up to. Maybe they’re just shutting down for the season. It really sucks not having an experienced beekeeper close by who can look at the bees and tell me in a second, “Nah, that’s nothing.” Or it is something. And there’s a point where information from the internet just doesn’t cut it… One other odd behaviour I’ve noticed from the bees in Hive #1 for maybe the past week: They’re attacking each other. Not all of them and not all the time, but at least once or twice a day since the hurricane went through, we’ve observed what looks like bees surrounding a single bee and attacking it. Sometimes it’s a group of bees on one bee, other times it’s just one or two bees going for it. But they just latch on to a bee and don’t let go. At first I thought the worker bees were kicking out some drones, but the bees that are being attacked are too small to be drones. Other possibilities: Worker bees from Hive #2 are robbing from the colony in Hive #1, and naturally there are a few skirmishes. Or just maybe it’s a bunch of queens emerging from supercedure cells and the workers bees are killing off the queens they’ve rejected. (Is that even possible?) Anyway, it’s another unusual bit of behaviour I don’t have much of a clue about. We need more experienced beekeepers in Newfoundland.
Continued in the next post.
UPDATE (Dec. 23/10): I recently learned through a comment that our bees are a hybrid of Italians, Russians and Carniolans. Russian honey bees react faster — and more dramatically — to environmental changes. The cold snap we had at the time may have triggered a wintering response in the bees, which is natural for Russian bees because they stop rearing brood early in the fall anyway. So all of the above behaviour is probably normal for our bees. The fights we saw were most likely caused by robbing from the other hive.