girls coming and going out the small opening in the blue hive. You can see the screened entrance reducer pinned down
Yesterday, it got up to 50 degrees and was sunny and calm. The girls were out flying as early as 11am. So about 2pm I decided to go winterize the hives and take one last quick peek.
I took out to the bee deck all the pieces of insulation, the black roofing paper, the camera and several bricks. Nephew brought out the electric staple gun (small craft stapler, not a big roofing staple gun) and plugged it in to an extension cord.
I suited up, got the smoker going with just a wee bit of burlap. I decided to just move the orange hive closer to the blue hive.
To do this I need to remove most of the boxes from the orange hive or I couldn’t possibly move the whole thing.
After they've been moved together and papered, here are the two front doors together
There was quite the pile of little dead bee bodies on the deck, many more in front of the blue hive than the orange hive. I decided I’d clean out the floor of both hives while I was here. If the bee bodies pile up on the bottom screen of the hive, then it obstructs the airflow. Since they only have about a 2″ opening to push out dead bodies, it’s probably hard to get them all out.
I barely smoked the front door of each hive in turn. I then pulled out the thumbtacks from the screened entrance reducer only on the bottom (those attaching the screen to the front porch, leaving those tacks attaching the screen to the bottom box). I then folded up the screen. I took a long paint stir stick, laid it flat, and pushed it in to the beehive flat through the front door as far as I could and swept the bottom of the hive from right to left, then pulled and scooped it forward, pulling dead bees out the entire front door. There was an equal amount of dead bodies as was already in front of the hive. I did this a few times until there were no more bodies coming out.
girls coming and going from the upper door of the blue hive, under the roof
This roused the bees a bit and they started coming out the hive. They weren’t nasty, though, no thwacking or thumping on my face net although it was right smack in front of their front door.
The orange hive had very few dead bodies to pull out. So the blue hive is creating dead bodies at a faster rate than the orange hive. This could be because the blue hive population was larger to start. But it wasn’t an unreasonable amount of dead bees for this time of year, maybe a 1/2 cup.
I then smoked the orange hive, removed the top and took each of the top 4 boxes and set them aside. They were still very, very heavy with honey. The 3rd box from the bottom had about 3 frames of bees and by the time there were just the last 2 boxes on the hive, I could see the bottom 2 boxes full of bees. This made the orange hive easy to move, so I moved it over right next to the blue hive.
I then quickly put it all back together and put the lid on. The lids are now touching and there’s an airspace of about 2 inches between the two hive bodies.
winterized hive from the front (southeast). Insulation on top, wrapped, insulation on sides.
I unrolled the black roofing paper wrap (AAAAAHH! spider spider spider spider spider spider – nephew comes running gets rid of nasty big spider) and surrounded the two hives to see how much I’d need. I cut the paper and put the rest of the roll outside the bee deck.
I started on the back of the hives and started stapling the roofing paper onto the hives. I tuck it right up under the roof overhang and staple it tight to the box, keeping it up right against the overhang. I want it to be under the overhang and tight up against the hive so that rain won’t drip down and get between the paper and the hives. I don’t care about stapling it at the bottom since the rain can just run off it.
I’m mostly trying to keep the cold winds out of the cracks between the boxes, keep the rain from running down the hive boxes, and putting a black wrap on that will warm up in the sun. I worked my way around, cutting out a hole for upper doors so the bees and air can still move.
winterized hive from the back (northwest). wrapped, insulation across top of hive stands, on sides and on front.
I then placed all my insulation board pieces, putting bricks on top so they won’t blow off in a big wind. This creates a little package for the bees.
They hives are together to create warmth; there’s an airspace between them but no wind can get through the airspace so it’ll be warm; there’s a wind break.; the tops are insulated by their roofs and the insulation; all the sides have a wind break; and no wind can swoop in the back from the top of the hive stand. But this also creates an air space under the hive and the air will still come up from the basement through the openings between the deck boards. But no snow should be able to get beneath the hives so I won’t have to keep scooping snow out from under the hives.
Here’s a video of the girls in the blue hive busily going in and out of their hive. I actually saw some coming back in with bright orange pollen – don’t ask me where they’re getting it from.
Blue hive girls busy coming and going.
The orange hive wasn’t nearly as active as the blue hive, but there was some activity.
I made sure that the upper access door was clear and I was actually seeing girls come and go so I know they have access and know the airflow can get through.
Then I took pictures, cleaned up the deck, swept the little dead bodies off the deck and realized that’s the last I’m going to see of them for quite some time.
It’s nearing the middle of November and there was lots of honey on the hives. So if I get a really warm day at the end of January or in February, it’ll be worth it to sneak a peek. That’ll mean tearing off the paper and then repapering the hives. But I’ll want to make sure in February that they haven’t eaten all their stores. I have four honey frames in the deep freeze in their honey bank in case they need them.
Have a nice winter girls. I’ll keep watching on sunny days to see if you’re flying.
I’ll miss you.