A record of all the relevant beekeeping that I do (or have done) during the month of November. For the record, I began with two nucleus colonies in Langstroth hives in 2010 that I kept in my small backyard near downtown St. John’s (Newfoundland). I bought two more nucs the next year. By 2012, using swarm cells and naturally mated queens, I had six colonies on a farm in Portugal Cove. By 2013, mostly by creating splits with swarm cells, I had eight colonies on the edge of a big field in Logy Bay. I lost most of my colonies in the winter of 2015 to shrews. That was the only year I wasn’t able to take honey from my hives. I moved what was left of my colonies to Flatrock in 2015 and slowly built my beeyard up to nine colonies by the summer of 2016. My goal is to maintain a relatively self-sustaining beeyard with no more than ten colonies.
I fed my bees sugar syrup until it was too cold for them to take any more of it, which isn’t always the smartest thing to do because even though the bees are able to store the syrup, they may not have time to cure it (evaporate most of the water from it) and cap it like they would with honey during warmer weather. Subsequently, as in my case, the ole beekeeper discovers a top third deep filled mostly with uncapped syrup — or as we like to say in the real world, moisture. Not enough moisture to drip down on the bees and kill them, but enough to dampen the frames and allow some mold to grow.
I wholeheartedly agree with that beekeeper. He seems like a smart guy.
In a previous post, Moisture Quilts vs Hard Insulation, I argued that hard insulation over the inner cover is a cheap and easy way to keep a hive relatively warm and dry over the winter. And it is. I used hard insulation in my hives for several winters with no problems. Even though I’ve since switched to moisture quilts, this year — as in a couple of weeks ago — I set up two of my five hives with hard insulation as a demonstration that I planned to report in on over the winter. But I pulled the plug on that experiment because I discovered moldy frames in the top boxes of those two hives yesterday.
The first bit of snow to stay on the ground came down last night.
Most of the bees are clustered down deep where they should be. (Nov. 04, 2015.)
All the hives, in theory, have enough honey to get them through the winter. If they don’t, I have a rim on top to make room for dry sugar or whatever else I might need to feed them if I notice them clustering above the tops bars. I hope it’s a cold winter and I hope it stays cold. Cold is better than warm.
May 2019 Introduction: I’ve deleted the post that used to be here except for the video because it went into unnecessary detail about a winter feeding method I no longer follow, the “Mountain Camp” method, or what’s also known as dry sugar feeding. Dry white granulated sugar is poured over newspaper that covers about two-thirds of the top bars, leaving one third free so one can still look down through the bars to see what the bees are doing. It’s a fine method for emergency winter feeding, but I stopped doing it because it was a hassle whenever I had to add more sugar later in the winter — pulling aside the old sugar, putting in more newspaper, etc. I never liked that part of it. Using sugar bricks is ten times easier, so that’s what I do now, if I feed them in the winter at all.
I also usually wait until the new year to add sugar. I used to add sugar in November just to get it over with, but the temperatures are often so warm in November now that the bees end up discarding the sugar, tossing it out the front door. I often wait until sometime in the new year instead.
A mouse got inside my city hive because I waited too long to put on mouse-proofing mesh.
From what I can tell, the mouse (or mice) was in the hive for a long time and scared the bees, queen and all, into a honey super that I had placed above the inner cover during a late fall feeding. Continue reading →