Brrrrr…..Winter Bees

new-year-bee
First of all, Happy New Year to you & yours! We traveled for Thanksgiving, but hunkered down and had a quiet family Christmas at home this year. Which is why I get to show you my fantastic (and ever growing–thanks to the wonderful people in my life) group of bee-related Christmas ornaments! Click to see them in all their glory. And yes, my knitting friends, the one on the right is felted wool! My besties know me SO well.

ornaments

It’s been generally chilly and damp here in Oregon since late October when I last checked on the bees.

After Thanksgiving, I finally decided to insulate the hives. I didn’t do it last year & they overwintered just fine, but I figured a little help might be nice. I bought two sheets of rigid foam insulation from Home Depot and trimmed them to fit the top and sides. Then I hit up Harbor Freight for some cheap strapping and was set.

Insulated Hive

I made sure to leave an entrance open for the bees. While they can’t really fly when the temperature is below 50 degrees, they do enjoy the rare warm sunny winter day to head out, check for food & water, and take their cleansing flights (i.e. they don’t go potty inside the hive….they just hold it until it’s warm enough to fly out!).

entrance

On days like today where the sun was out and things were feeling warm(-ish), I really expected to see some bees flying around. When I saw no activity from either hive, I started to worry. I knocked on the hive, but didn’t hear anything (you can usually hear a low buzz), but I’m not the best at hearing through the hive even when I know the girls are doing well. So, I unwrapped one side and tried to see through the window. No bees, but I didn’t expect much. It’s very hard to see anything in winter because the bee ball is wedged up high in the comb where it’s warm. Yep, the bee ball. Bees don’t hibernate, they just make a ball and do the shuffling penguin thing where everyone gets a turn staying warm in the middle.

I had noticed back in October what looked like a small spot of fuzzy white mold staring to form on one of the honeycombs I could see through the window. Now it’s bigger–about the size of a quarter.

mold

Okay, I was really getting worried, now. Either I’ve lost the hive and might as well start cleaning it up now, or they’re fine and hiding from me but I’d rather have peace of mind. I figured it was almost 50 degrees, so even if I found the bees, it shouldn’t be enough exposure to chill them too much. Time to crack that sucker open.

I pried up the two bars closest to the end which is where I expected the bees to be hanging out. Nothing. Heavy honeycomb, which is good, but no bees or noise which is not good. *sigh* I carefully pried up the next two and still nothing. Damn. With a little panic setting in, I loosened the next four in quick order. And heard a buzz! A sweet little high-pitched buzz! Oh, what a sound! I dropped the bars right back down so as to not let too much cold air in. Kindly, the girls dropped down enough for me to see them in the window. There don’t seem to be very many, which is probably why they haven’t taken care of the mold yet, but it was good enough for me to know they’re doing okay.

bees

What a relief! I closed everything up lickety-split and didn’t even bother stressing out the other hive. Been surviving on their own for thousands of years without my help, right? But I manage to freak out anyway.

In other awesome news, I applied & have been accepted into the Oregon Master Beekeeping program that starts next month. I’m excited to learn all there is to know about these fantastic insects!
OSU

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2 Responses to Brrrrr…..Winter Bees

  1. Kathleen says:

    Congratulations on getting accepted into the Beekeepers program! The next time we get a swarm that balls up in a tree, I’m calling you. 🙂

  2. Bert says:

    Awesome Keep up the good work.

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