Winter and a New Year

By | January 6, 2013

2013 is here.  August since the last post.  So what happened since then you might ask.

I’m now at 8 hives, 4 hives + a nuc here at the house and 3 hives down at the alfalfa.  My plan was really for 10 hives, 8 + 2 nucs.  I lost one hive, more on that in a bit.  The second nuc I was trying to start never really took off.  It kept losing the virgin queens I was trying to introduce.  And then an opportunity presented itself.  The observation hive at Governor Dick had a massive die-off.  Their tube became blocked and they were trapped for a week or more.  Lots of starved bees, it was quite a terrible sight.  The queen was still alive though.  I brought them home and caged the queen and immediately fed her some honey.  She ate a lot.  I then used one of the German queen introduction cages with a big blob of queen candy to give her to the struggling nuc.  They had freed her in a few days and accepted her with no issues.  A refreshing success.  So with the observation hive modified to have a much larger entrance and a feeder, the nuc was dismantled into the observation hive and the bees were back at Governor Dick.

I used MAQs again this year.  Treated in mid-August.  It seemed to go well, no queen issues.  I had put two supers of comb back onto 5 of the hives  Two of them did nothing with it, so off that came.  Three of them really went to town on them, filled one and started on the other.  I left those three hives with four boxes for the winter, the rest of the hives have three boxes.  Late September was a lot of feeding.  This is when I lost a hive at the alfalfa.  I left the notch in the inner cover facing down and open with a bucket of syrup right on the top.  Of course they began to get robbed.  I didn’t catch it for at least 4 days, probably longer (I don’t remember) but it was too late.  The hive had dwindled to nothing and actually absconded, just gave up on the location with nothing left.  Lesson learned, which was pointless because I already knew not to do it, just stupid oversight.

I still have one hive, started by the Keeney package down at the alfalfa, that just seems to be a dud.  It may have snot brood.  If it survives the winter and into spring and doesn’t take off, I’m going to split it into two nucs and put it on a few frames of good comb off a different hive and make them draw new comb of their own.  I’ll ditch all theirs and start over.

At the end of October as the weather got cold the hives got their small attic boxes and all the insulation and wrap of last year.  Same tunnel-style mouse guards as last year as well.  As of today, 1/6/13, they’re all still alive.  But some are feeling awfully light.  The next two months will make them prove their mettle.

My biggest goal for the new year, assuming I have surviving hives, is to checkerboard them to prevent swarming as much as possible.  Last year I was just too timid in unwrapping them to checkerboard just to wrap them back up again.  I just didn’t want to disturb them.  Well, a lot of beekeepers who have been doing this successfully a lot longer than I have disturb them to checkerboard every year, so I really don’t want to put it off.  I want big hives and few swarms this year.

But for right now it’s winter.  Reading, workshop planning, maybe actually painting some boxes this year, we’ll see.  Cabin fever and missing bees until warm.



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