This is the sequel to yesterday’s Poop Parade of Death series of photos. I didn’t need to open the hive today to see if anything was wrong with the bees, but after a short online exchange with a local beekeeper, I began to think about how the SMELL of the bees or the inside of the hive might be an indication of the colony’s health. For instance, if the smell of poop is emanating from a hive entrance, well, that’s probably not a good sign. Apparently it can mean dysentery. So as well as checking on the bees after what looked like en masse cleansing flights, I wanted to take a whiff of the bees and see if they stunk. You can watch the video for my reaction to the smell, but I don’t think they stunk. In fact, the bees looked really good to me. I was 100% pleased with what I saw. I may dump a pollen patty over the top bars soon, but I think this colony is doing great. Most of my colonies seem to be doing okay this winter.
I walked outside my house today and saw an unusual number of dead bees in the snow. So…
I went around the corner to look at my beehives and found this.
That’s a lot of dead bees. And a lot of poop.
Generally I don’t think it’s a good idea to return dying bees back to the hive. The bees in this video probably came outside to poop. Took a rest on the warm concrete block. Enjoyed the warmth so much that they lost track of time and got stuck out in the cold. Too cold to fly back inside the hive. But honey bees, when they’re sick, often leave the confines of their hive so they don’t share their germs with all the other bees inside the crowded hive. They maintain their social distance. They create a circuit breaker to cut off the transmission of disease by leaving the hive. Picking up those sick bees and returning them to the hive can effectively re-transmit any disease they might have.
Can someone tell that dog to shut up?
Yesterday I visited two beehives that I have on a farm, before snow and rain came in to make that kind of thing not much fun. Here’s an 18-minute video of that visit, but I tacked on a 5-minute condensed version for the Readers’ Digest crowd.
Here’s an index of the big events in this video, though there’s a lot more than what’s listed here.
When I need to feed my bees in a hurry and I don’t have time to make sugar cakes or anything like that, I dump dry sugar in the hive and call it done. I don’t love this method as much as did when I first tried it years ago. Back then, I liked it because it was easy to do, but adding more sugar once the bees have eaten through the first hit can get a little messy. Slipping in sugar bricks, while taking some effort upfront, is so much faster and easier, there’s no contest for me anymore. But in a pinch, I’ll do the ole dry sugar method, and it goes a little something like this:
So it’s looks like the hive pillow is doing its job. Moisture is rising up through the inner cover hole, passing through the wood chips, condensing on the cold top cover, dripping down on the top of the pillow, where it then evaporates through the holes in the ventilation rim. Hence, the bees inside are kept dry.
Another experiment. And when I say experiment, it means I’m trying something that I hope makes my beekeeping simpler and easier and cheaper. In this video I’ve got a piece of hard insulation over the inner cover, with a hole cut in the insulation above the inner cover hole, and a ventilation rim covering the whole thing.
The idea behind it is to: 1) Prevent condensation from forming under the inner cover. That’s what insulation does, right? 2) Keep the bees a little warmer. Again, that’s what insulation does, right? 3) Allow for moisture to escape through the inner cover whole and out the ventilation rim. Thus the bees get the best of both worlds, both warm and dry.
It seemed like a good idea in my head, but I’m not sure how it coincides with the laws of thermodynamics.
The pandemic has knocked my sleeping patterns out of whack. I’ve had to rely on coffee to keep me going at times, and every time I do it I seem to make one of these rambling beekeeping videos — or several of them. But I’m getting tired of listening to my caffeinated voice. I’m not sure how much longer I’ll keep it up. At any rate, here’s a hodgepodge of little bits that I deleted from other videos because the videos were already long enough, or I just forgot about them. Either way, this is the last video I post until my next blast of caffeine.
I wrapped two hives in bubble wrap about two weeks ago, as an experiment. Here’s the first follow-up to that experiment.
I didn’t have high hopes for the bubble wrap. I have my doubts that I’ll try it again. But one of the hives is still wrapped, so we’ll see what happens.
It can be a little unnerving opening a beehive in the middle of the winter. But I suppose it depends on what you mean by winter. I was able to open my hives today — the first time I’ve opened them this winter — because there wasn’t a breath of wind and it was cold but not freezing. A common cold damp day that makes your bones ache in a bad way. And when I say opened, I mean I hadn’t removed the inner cover from a hive and exposed the bees to the cold winter air yet.