I did a quick peek at three hives today. The weather stinks, but the colonies seem to be in pretty good shape.
I have three colonies in another location that I haven’t been able to check on for a month now because I got busy and then I got sick with a flu. But the seven that I have in what passes for my little beeyard next to my house don’t look too bad to me.
I don’t think I have a single hive that’s like any other hive this winter. Some consist of two deeps and a medium, or a deep and two mediums. Some have hard insulation over the inner cover, while others have none. Some have ventilation rims, one has a ventilation “box,” while another one has a moisture quilt. Some have rims to make room for emergency sugar feed, while others have empty mediums or shallow supers instead of rims. Some have emergency sugar and some don’t. Some have protein patties, while others don’t have a thing. Some have clusters over the top bars and a few have clusters so far down that I can barely see them. One is set up on the base of a D.E. Hive with the bottom entrance on the wide side of the hive, though the top entrance for that hive is on the narrow side if that makes sense. The only thing they all have in common is that they’re all painted black, they’ve been buried in snow since January 17th, and they’re not wrapped (a huge experiment and a big gamble). But they’re okay.
Postscript: It’s time for an impassioned rant.
Or as we say in French, Bombes au Chocolat de Miel.
I made some chocolate covered honey comb loosely based on an idea or recipe I stole from page 157 of the American Bee Journal, the February 2020 edition, and boy oh boy was it delicious.
I made some with milk chocolate too, but the dark chocolate ones were the best. The milk chocolate ones were a little too sweet. It all just blended together, whereas the dark chocolate made the comb honey flavour, along with the smooth velvety feel of the beeswax, jump up and say, “Wow!”
By the way, this simple method of dipping comb honey in chocolate should work well with anything. Whatever the kids can think of dunking into chocolate, go for it. (So said the person who has only done this once.)
I had to reassure my neighbour’s kids today that all the dead bees they’re finding in the snow around their house is normal for this time of year, especially on windless sunny days like today.
It wasn’t exactly warm today, closer to 0°C than anything else (32°F), but many bees were flying and pooping all over the snow close to their hives. (I’ll skip those pictures, but here’s a sample from yesteryear.)
I’m usually reassured when I see the bees flying about in the winter, even if hundreds of them end up dead in the snow. It can signal bad news on occasion, but most of the time the message I hear from the colony is, “We’re not dead,” so I’m happy.
It can be heart-breaking for some, but the fact is, hundreds of bees die in a healthy colony every day. That’s the way it is. It’s not as bad in the wintertime. It just looks bad because it’s often more noticeable with the dark bees lying dead against a white background of snow. But it’s normal (most of the time).
The following was written while I was lying in bed with the flu for a few days last winter. It’s long for no reason other than I was sick and had nothing better to do than try to write the longest post in the world. You’ve been warned. I could condense the whole thing down to two or three sentences, but what’s the fun in that?
Subtitled: How I Sometimes Assemble Beehive Frames
Ever pull a big frame full of honey from a hive, only to have it fall apart on you? You know what I’m talking about: one of the sidebars disconnects from the frame and the heavy comb of honey pops out of the frame and just sort of hangs awkwardly from one side while you try to maneuverer it so you don’t crush any bees? Yeah, that. (Am I the only one who had a hard time reading that with this animated GIF distracting me the whole time?)
Subtitled: Checking on Bees That Were Buried in Snow For More Than a Month
I still haven’t posted a video of the big storm from January 17th, 2020, that buried most of my hives, but it’s coming. It’s a spectacle, not really a beekeeping video.
In the meantime, I’ve put together two videos of the same thing — a 7-minute video for people who just want to see the bees and not hear me babble on about stuff, and the 25-minute unabridged version of the first inspections I did with these hives since they got snowed in over a month ago. It’s longer than the typical killing-time-at-work video, but it may be worth a look for new beekeepers who want to get into the nitty-gritty of winter beekeeping. I cover a lot on ground in this one. (Watching it in segments and coming back to it throughout the day might be the best bet.) It’s interesting how snowshoes have become standard beekeeping gear for me since the storm. And by interesting I mean annoying.
Here’s the highlights reel:
In honour of making it to 13,000 subscribers on YouTube (though honestly, I’d say maybe 200 or 300 subscribers actually watch the videos), here’s a link to all of my most popular videos (click or tap the image).
My #1 video has almost 4.5 million views. The views drop off quite dramatically after that. Most of my beekeeping videos these days max out at about 200 views, so the glory days are over.
At Mud Songs, we may not make it first, but I think we can make it last.
Here’s a 6-minute video that shows what happened to one of my hives that was completely buried in snow for a week or two — and by completely I mean all the entrances were blocked too.
The bees couldn’t get out for cleansing flights and made a big stinking mess of the hive, or at least their hive entrance. The 6mm / quarter-inch mesh I use to keep shrews out probably made the mess even worse. Who knows, maybe the heat from the colony would have melted the snow around the top entrance and allowed the bees to get out just far enough to poop. Maybe. But for now, especially if my area ever gets hit with an insane snow storm again, I may have to put 12mm / half-inch mesh around the entrances and hope for the best.
I discovered today that one of my hives, not next to my house, has likely been buried in snow for at least a week, maybe two. I didn’t expect this.
When I cleared out the top entrance, the smell was like rotten caplin fertiliser. Pee you. It was ugly.
The bees needed some cleansing flights and they couldn’t get out. I didn’t open the hive to see the mess inside because I can’t do anything about it at this time. But I’m sure it’ll make an educational video some day (stay tuned).
The last time we saw this hive about a month ago, a rat had been gnawing on it.
The bees came pouring out once I cleaned all the poop-covered dead bees out of the way. I’ll clean it up next week by spraying it down with apple cider vinegar. And I could do with less snow.