THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN UPDATED SINCE ORIGINALLY POSTED.
Jenny and I added some pollen patties (and one candy cake) to our hives today. Here’s the video, and then I’ll talk about it and show you some pictures.
UPDATE (Feb. 19/11): Now let’s talk about what we did wrong and what we’d do differently. Number 1: We don’t like to smoke our bees, but if we could go back and do it over again, we’d smoke ‘em first. A few good puffs of smoke through the upper entrance may have driven the bees down below the top frames. That would have made it much easier to slip in the pollen and sugar — and it would have prevented me from squishing a clump of bees between the pollen patty and the inner cover when I put the inner cover back down (possibly squishing the queen). Number 2: Use a candy board instead of candy cakes. That’s not a mistake but a preference. If we had installed a 15-pound (6.8kg) candy board in January, it would have eliminated the need to feed the bees for the rest of the winter (some pollen would be in the candy mix too). The bees could congregate on the top bars all they like and we’d never have to bother them. Candy boards are heavy and unwieldy, but if it means we can leave the bees alone longer (which is usually a good thing), I’m all for it.
The long range forecast didn’t call for above-freezing temperatures until March. But it went up to 2°C in the backyard this afternoon, so we made the most of it and gave the bees a few extra goodies to get them through the next two months of snow. Here are the photos:
That’s Hive #1 with the top off and the insulated inner hive cover showing.
I wouldn’t say the bees are clustering at all. To me, it looks like the whole colony is hanging out on the top bars.
That’s me adding a pollen patty to Hive #1. (All the photos are of Hive #1.) I’m glad I opened the inner cover like a door with one edge down. Many bees probably would have died (from flying away) if I had to bang them off the cover for any reason.
Sliding the pollen patty into the middle of the frames. It’s a half-pound patty. I’ll add another half maybe sometime in March if it gets warmer.
Those are candy cakes in the corners. I hope the queen is safely down below.
That’s totally nuts. What is going on with those bees? You can see the blank spots from the candy cakes in the corners.
Tools of the trade.
Hive #2 half buried in snow.
I dug out much of the snow around the hives. Does snow really insulate the hives? That snow is almost like a block of ice.
I don’t know if the bees are starving, freezing, or if the queen is dead. Or maybe the queen has laid loads of hatching brood and the hive is getting crowded. I don’t know and I’m not going to worry about it because there’s nothing I can do. The bees are alive, so I’m happy.
Whatever is going on, it’s the same in both hives and, judging from how much of the candy cakes they’ve eaten in past three weeks, I’d say they have enough to stay alive well into March. I hope.
I don’t want to touch them for another month if I don’t have to.
P.S.: (Feb. 19/11): I emailed some of the photos to a few experienced beekeepers. They all agreed the hives are most likely very low or even empty of honey and that we definitely saved the colonies by adding the candy cakes. I’ll take their word for it. I’d still like to see how many empty frames we find during our first spring inspection, just to confirm it. I’m amazed the bees can eat through so much honey so fast. Or maybe they didn’t have as much as we thought they did. Crazy.