It was unseasonably warm at 6°C in my beeyard today (43°F), warm enough for the bees in most of my hives to get out for some cleansing flights, possibly for the first time in months.
Honey bee after a cleansing flight. (March 27, 2016.)
The bees were flying all around me and landing on me and I swear I could smell… bee farts.
Someone asked me when, why and how I feed my bees pollen patties. Here’s a photo from one of my first posts about the topic, Adding Pollen Patties. The colony pictured below, by the way, is starving. Usually the way it works is the more winter bees above the top bars, the less honey there is in the hive (usually, not always).
Adding a pollen patty to a very hungry colony. (February, 2011.)
I’ve written about pollen patties a bunch of times, so I’m likely to repeat myself here. Do a search of “patties” in my little search engine box up at the top for more detailed information with videos and photos and so on.
It’s June 2019 as I rewrite this post from December 2013. 2013 was when shrews first got into my hives, but I didn’t know it at the time. I would see all these signs of shrews again during the winter of 2015 when shrews destroyed or catastrophically wrecked havoc on six of my eight colonies.
The conditions seemed perfect for shrews in the winter of 2015. I heard about commercial beekeepers in Prince Edward Island and in New Brunswick who lost up to 80% of their colonies due to shrew predation. Snow was so high at times that it seems the shews were able to skitter across the deep snow and hop into beehives through the top entrances that didn’t have mouse guards on them. (Who puts mouse guards over the top entrances? Nobody.) Once inside the hives, the shrews would pluck one bee at a time from the edge of the cluster, suck the guts out of the bee’s body and then go back for more, all day long, day after day until the cluster was so small and the bees were so stressed that they were goners before the snow melted. It was a pretty damn devastating situation all around.
A shrew tunnel in the snow. (Next to an earplug for scale.)
Shews can squeeze through 3/8-inch mouse guards, so page 1 from my anti-shrew playbook is to staple or use push pins to attach 6mm (quarter-inch) mesh over my bottom entrances around the first week of October or whenever I think it’s getting so cold that the bees are beginning to cluster. The mesh might knock some pollen off the bees’ legs, but not enough to concern me. With push pins, I can always temporarily remove the mesh if the bees are having a particularly busy day of foraging. I sometimes cover the top entrances with mesh too just to be extra safe. And it works.
But in the winter of 2013 and 2015, I didn’t have a clue. Here’s how it first played it December 2013:
Even though there’s still three feet of snow in the backyard, the temperature went up to 10°C today, which I have discovered is the magic temperature that triggers to bees to get outside —
Fresh honey bee poo (March 31, 2011).
— and poo. They’ve been holding it in all winter, so who can blame them? ‘Tis the season for cleansing flights.
December 2018 Introduction: This is sort of an uneventful post of me talking about making a giant jar feeder and a brief review of most of the feeders I’ve used over the year. I also wrote a post about how to install a jar feeder, but there’s really no much to it. Jar feeders come in handy when I want to kick-start the bees into foraging mode after a long winter. But they’re not something I think about using often. These days I do opening feeding at certain times of the year (i.e., an open bucket full of syrup with straw a fair distance from the hives), but that’s probably not the best feeding method for beginners. I’ve used frame feeders for starting up nucs. I use hive top feeders too. And recently I began to use rapid feeders that look like this…
A rapid feeder that is placed over the inner cover hole.
…and what some call German-style feeders that look like this: