Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's February - and still winter

WOW - It has been a very long time since I posted my inspections.  Here is a quick re-cap of what we have been up to:

I finished the Fumagillin-B treatments for all three hives. I also treated for varroa using ApiGuard.  Winter was steadily on it's way, so I continued feeding syrup at a 2:1 ratio to help build up more stores.  When the weather got cold enough, and the bees stopped taking the syrup, I pulled the feeders, added some pollen patties on top, and tucked the bees in for winter.  I decided not to do anything special for the winter.  I did not wrap the hives, nor build any surround for them since they are in a relativiely protected location.  I simply made sure the IPM board was in place, the entrance reducers were on, and that the inner cover vent was clear.   Soon enough the snow and cold arrived and the bees were on their own.
I did check on them on a semi warm day sometime around Xmas and found they were doing fine.  Stores seemed okay, but there were some bees near the top of hive one.  I did not weigh the hive, I just went by what I could see from the top.
In late January/early February, we had another warm spell and I was able to check the hives again.  Bees from all three hives were actively taking their cleansing flights.  All hives looked strong and active, but the bees in hive #1 were at the top and the pollen patty was gone, so I presumed they were low or out of food.  I quickly built a small spacer frame out of 3" wood pieces and installed some sugar patties (sugar with a small amount of water and some essential oil mixed into a paste) on top, which was eagerly accepted by Hive #1.  Hive #2 showed no bees near the top, but I added some sugar just in case.  Schoolhouse Hive #3 was keeping mostly clustered, and showed no interest in the sugar.  I installed it anyway, since I didn't know when I'de be able to open the hive again.
So now, today, we had another warm day with bees flying, so I was able to quickly check inside each hive to see the status of sugar patties.  Hive #1 still has plenty left, and the bees are definitely using the sugar.  Hive #2 still has sugar, but I did not open the inner cover to see how many bees were on it.  Schoolhouse Hive #3, is still clustered, still not on the sugar, but still looking alive.
I am happy that I took the time to build those extra spacer frames so I could fit the sugar patties on top.  If anything, it gives me some peace of mind knowing that they have something to consume in case of emergency.
We still have a long way to go before we see the end of winter, but so far, I am quite optimistic that all three hives will make it through.  (And to think that everyone was suggesting I combine the Schoolhouse hive).