mid-December Bees

(It’s a slow news day here at Mud Songs.) I know everyone has been on edge waiting for the results of the Cloudy Honey taste test. Does clarifying a jar of cloudy honey in a bowl of hot water destroy the floral flavours and aromas? Does it make the honey taste like grocery store goo? I don’t know. I haven’t done the taste test yet. But stay glued to your computer. We hope to have the results in this weekend. In the meantime, I’ll answer another question I’m sure has been on everyone’s mind: “Phillip, what are your bees up to these days?” I don’t know. But let’s find out… Okay, I just got back from taking a few pictures of the bees. Check it out:

Top entrance from a first-year hive (Dec. 16/11).

Top entrance from a second-year hive (Dec. 15/11).
Top entrance from a foundationless hive (Dec. 16/11).

The bees in all four hives are clustering in the top brood chamber now. I can’t imagine they’re running out of honey in the bottom box already. The last time I checked in the fall, both chambers in all the hives seemed packed with honey. I may add some candy cakes before the new year just to be safe. Or maybe it’s normal for the bees to rise to the top box at this time of year. I’ll have to look into that. And I’m not sure if you can tell, but the last photo from our one foundationless hive shows the cluster farther back from the top entrance. The bees in all the other hives are right up against the front entrance. Perhaps the foundationless hive has a smaller cluster. I wouldn’t be surprised. At any rate, that’s what our bees are up to these day. Nothing. Just hanging tight trying to stay warm. Only another four or five months to go.

5 thoughts on “mid-December Bees

  1. Awww bees. Am very excited to find out the results of your taste test. Maybe I will do my own one here.

    It brings home what challenges you face hearing you talk about the bees having four or five months of huddling to go. Here they can be flying again in late January and there’s risk of them swarming by April.

  2. Hey Phil,

    I was curious today to check the colony that swamed and I obtained the honey from. So I pulled the insulated cover off, no bees. I pulled the inner cover off, no bees. So I looked in between the the honey super that wasn’t filled so I pulled the top box off to look. Still couldn’t see any bees. So I pulled a #3 frame from the top brood box. Then there was bees and proceeded to close the hive back up.

    Then I stuck a long blade of grass into the bottom entrance, a buzz began and 3 bees flew.

    The point of this comment was I was amazed how these bees have clustered right into the bottom box and how much resources there are left in the colony.

    I pulled the insulated cover off the nuc box and there were down inside well too. So far, so good. Hopefully the 7 colonies make it through the winter.

  3. So, Jeff, your bees are still in the bottom box? That’s excellent. I’m concerned my hives don’t have as much honey as I thought. I’ve decided I’m going to feed them today or tomorrow. The temperature is hovering around zero, but that’s as warm as it’s going to get for the next few weeks. I’ll be in and out of the hives as quick as I can.

    I’ll have to put on some spacing rims to make room for the candy cakes, place the candy cakes in, and then seal the hives up at least until sometime in January.

    I’m tempted to dump in raw sugar instead of going through the trouble of mixing up candy cakes. I’ve seen photos online of inner covers turned to the summer position and then filled with raw sugar. Here’s an example (I’m not sure the link will work for everyone):


    I might just stick with the candy cakes, though, because the bees don’t have to travel as far to eat the candy cakes that sit right on the top bars.

    UPDATE: If the weather forecast is accurate, it looks like I won’t be able to provide the bees any extra food for another week or two. It’ll be too cold and windy (and snowing) to open the hives. Here’s hoping they don’t starve in the meantime.

  4. Someone on Google + offered a simple explanation for the bees clustering near the top of the hive even though they may still have plenty of honey in the bottom box:

    Heat rises.

    Good answer. I’d like to leave the bees alone and see what happens. But without only four hives, I can’t risk losing any. I’ll probably still put the candy cakes in as soon as I can. Better safe than sorry. I won’t be as cautious when I have more hives and more experience. Maybe in a couple years.

  5. I do have some colonies that are right to the top too. But I know they have plenty of food too. To be honest the colony that was right at the bottom the other day was in the honey super about a month ago. Then the colonies that I added some candy cakes the bees are at the top. I think it is due to the honey bee healthy that was added to the candy boards. All we can do now is wait and see if we get a warm spell to do an inspection in February or March. Odds are your bees have good reserves too so I wouldn’t be to concerned. As long as we do not have prolonged cold spells they can move around the colony to get the goods. And fortunately our winters are not that bad.


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