THE FOLLOWING WAS LAST UPDATED ON DEC. 19, 2010.
It’s cold all the time now. It rarely gets above 10° C (or 50° F). Hive #1 has been slow-moving since September and Hive #2 went into a low gear this past week. Neither hive is taking much syrup from the hive top feeders, so I decided to remove them and replace them with inverted jar feeders, which the bees can feed from without breaking cluster or losing too much heat. One 500ml jar will probably do them for another week, maybe two, before I finally wrap up the hives for winter. Here’s a silly video showing the whole procedure.
The video inadvertently shows part of what I’ll do to winterize the hives. At the 1:00 mark, you see me put a 1.5-inch thick piece of hard insulation over the inner cover and then place the outer cover on top. That’s all the insulation I plan to use for the winter. It’ll be just like that.
However, the thick piece of insulation lifts the outer cover up too high for the lip of the cover to shelter the upper entrance like it normally would. I added a little wooden flap to the outer cover (seen at the end of the video) to provide some winter shelter for the upper entrance. Next year I might use a 1 inch thick piece of insulation to avoid adding the flap (or I might just do it this year). I hope it works.
UPDATE (Oct. 28/10): Notice around the 1:30 mark how I reverse the inner cover to the winter position, but then I put a super on top of the inner cover with an inverted jar feeder, and then add insulation and an outer cover. I repeat this with Hive #2 as well. Here’s how stupid I am: When I flipped the inner cover to the winter position, the upper entrance was no longer above the inner cover. So when I put the super on top of it to shelter the jar feeder and then put on the top cover, all the bees that were on top of the inner cover got sealed in. I just took a look under the hood and found about 50 or so half-starved bees dragging their sorry butts around. Oops. I poured a little syrup around so they could get something to eat, if they have the energy to eat, and then added another inner cover on top so they can fly out and get back in the hive. There’s a Newfoundland expression that’s appropriate to this kind of behaviour: Stunned.
UPDATE (Oct. 29/10): We had unseasonably warm weather yesterday and today, well above 10° C and warm enough so they bees were flying around their entrances again. Hive #1, as usual, has barely taken down any syrup from their inverted jar feeder. (I don’t have high hopes for that hive surviving the winter, which is sad because it was doing extremely well until September.) Hive #2 has nearly emptied its jar of syrup. I was planning to wrap up the hives this weekend, but if Hive #2 is still taking down syrup, I might wait another week.
UPDATE (Oct. 30/10): Hive #2 is now working on its second jar of syrup. Hive #1 is still on its first. I might wrap Hive #1 in a day or two.
UPDATE (Dec. 19/10): The number of bees covering the bars of the top frames can be an indication of the strength of the hive: the more bees the better. Notice the number of bees on the top of Hive #1 at the 0:47 mark. Then compare that to the bees in Hive #2 at the 1:58 mark. Hive #2 looks much stronger — I can see about twice as many bees. Something happened to Hive #1 in September. I won’t be surprised if it doesn’t survive the winter.