Monday, January 26, 2015

Mid Winter Hive Check (2014)

(Catching up on winter 2014)
I try at least once in mid winter to check on the hives, especially if there's been lots of snow.
I like to make sure their bottom entrance is clear of snow and debris so they can exit the hive.
There is a top entrance as well, which is left open in winter to diffuse moisture from the hive (never block this or cold water droplets will form inside the hive and drip on the bees).
The hard part is getting into the hives.  I've had some experiences where the snow is hard and crusted on top and once you step your leg sinks to thigh deep.  One time there was mud at the bottom and it sucked my boots off.
I use a knapsack to hold my tools so my hands are free to use the ski poles.
On a sunny winter day it can be a pleasant hike.
I don't bang on hives or disturb the bees and putting an ear on the hive you won't hear the buzz this time of year since the cluster is smaller.
But I do peek in the top entrance and I will most often see guard bees resting just inside the entrance.  On warm sunny days they'll even be poking out the entrance. 
I always consider that a good sign.
I observe bee poop on the plastic wraps as well.  We can be quick to conclude nosema but both 2013 and 2014 we had a very cold winter.  I believe when it's very cold the bees slip just outside to poop and then get back in quick.  I think if they tried to fly out it'd be too cold and they wouldn't make it back.
This photo of bee poop and a few dead bees isn't unusual for the middle of winter.
Oh, and if you take a hike to your hives, make sure you have your cell phone in case you get yourself stuck in a snow bank!

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