A Winter Visit to a Beeyard

Here’s a long video of my visit last weekend to the six hives I have on a farm about 30 minutes from my house in the city. It’s more or less a repeat of my Mountain Camp video.

Here’s a break-down of what the video has to offer:

0:51 — I discover the top cover missing from one of the snow-covered hives.
3:07 — Hearing a roar of bees in one of the hives.
3:24 — A peek under the hood to see some bees just starting to cluster above the top bars.
3:35 — A hive with some sugar added over the top bars, following what some call The Mountain Camp Method of dry sugar feeding.
4:20 — A complete demonstration of a raw sugar feeding. On a relatively warm and windless day (so the bees are less likely to get chilled from the brief exposure to the cold air), I remove the top cover and the insulated inner cover. (Most of my hives have a piece of insulation over the regular inner cover which works just as well.) I add a wooden rim (or eke) to make space for the raw sugar. I place a piece of newspaper over the top bars, right over the clustering bees. Then I pour dry granulated sugar all over the newspaper, as much as I can fit on the newspaper and I don’t care if some falls down inside the hive. I don’t spray down the newspaper or sugar like I did last year. The sugar seems to hardened by absorbing much of the moisture inside the hive, which is a good thing (no extra moisture required). The bees need some water to help them digest the sugar, but this is Newfoundland. There’s no shortage of water around here.
6:53 — Listening again to the buzz of many bees inside a hive.
7:01 — A review of what I found in each of the six hives.
7:34 — Getting chased away by some mean bees.

Not included in the video is my discovery of a dead colony. I posted that portion of the video two days ago. I plan to post a follow-up video and photos as soon as I can bring the dead colony home to do a post mortem.

8 thoughts on “A Winter Visit to a Beeyard

  1. How original must the material be? Sometimes it is just good to read another beek’s latest misadventures and compare with one’s own. Besides you will break the link from our most popular post to your most popular post. That wretched feeder.

  2. By original I mean new. I’ll continue as long as I have something new to post. If I’ve posted a video that shows how I requeen a colony, for instance, I’m not going to post a video every time I requeen a colony. There’s still plenty of ground to cover (e.g., catching a swarm, harvesting natural queen cells, building a Warré hive with an observation window, etc.), but I’m not interested in reporting variations of the same activities over and over. If it’s new to me and I think other beekeepers might learn from my experience, I’ll post it… eventually.

  3. Are you sure someone vandalized the topless hive? Might it just have blown off? If someone intentionally took the cover off one hive, I don’t see why they would leave the tops on any of the hives.

    Without a cover and with water coming in, it’s no wonder the one hive was mad, tho. Any hive would be grumpy in that instance, but one that was already touchy would be doubly so. Sounds like it is a candidate for requeening.

    As to the dead hive: Having the hives nearer you wouldn’t prevent dead-outs, believe me. In fact, across the U.S. this winter beekeepers of all stripes are seeing 30 percent to 40 percent losses, up substantially from last year’s loss rate.

    It’s interesting that you check your bees while there is snow on the ground. Around here beeks are warned on pain of death not to remove a cover when it’s lower than 50 degrees. Just goes to show, most advice given to new beekeepers is opinion, not reality.

    • I’m not sure it was vandalized. It’s possible the wind blew it off. The rock I had on top of it was big, but I thought about it afterwards. If ice built up around the rock, it could have slid off and wind could have easily blown the cover off because it’s a home made cover that’s lighter than most. So yeah, it could have been the wind.

      Agreed. That whole situation doubled the nastiness of those bees. I have to requeen them ASAP.

      It was 0°C / 32°F with no wind when I checked the hives. But I made sure to doing it quickly. I had everything in place and tried to have it all done in less than two minutes. I could probably do it in less than a minute if I had someone with me. I wouldn’t pull out frames or anything really invasive in the winter, but a quick peek seems relatively harmless, at least for a large healthy colony that can quickly build up the lost heat.

      That’s my best guess, anyway.

  4. Hey Phil,

    Boy did I laugh at that video. In light of that none of my queens from last year are like that. I would requeen first chance in the spring too.

    To bad they are so aggressive though.

    Have you checked on them lately? a couple of mine that were weak and I have since fed are really burning through the hard candy now. Just a FYI.

    Anyway hope everything is good.

    • I haven’t check on them since I gave them the dry sugar. My city bees are doing okay, though. The hive is constantly buried in snow but I keep seeing bees coming and going. It’s impressive.

  5. Well Phil,

    I have lost 4 colonies now. I checked yesterday. The first one died of lack of resources. Another one wouldn’t eat the hard candy. I think the last two died for the same reason. The vented inner covers I was trying. They let the heat up but let the crap/dead bee stuff down. Two of the three with this on top are now dead. The last looks weak so I have to do an intervention today when the rain subsides. I have some ideas that I will try to rule out.


    • Well that sucks. You think it’s the vented inner covers? I’m curious what the design is — and why it’s not working for the bees.

      I’ve been too busy to check on mine since I gave them sugar a few weeks ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re not in great shape either. I hope I can get out to see them next weekend.

      Let me know how things work out with that other colony. Are the bees not eating the hard candy because of something to do with the vented covers?

      I know it’s important to keep the inside of the hive dry, but the bees still need some moisture to dissolve and digest the sugar. I wonder if it’s possible to be too dry inside the hive.

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