The uncertainties of the new beekeeper. . . .
Since it’s warm, sunny today, I went out to check the hive. Bees are buzzing–including drones. There is pollen somewhere that the girls are bringing in. After seeing the traffic in and out of the hive, I decided to attack the burr comb problem after the temperature went up a bit more.
While waiting for the temperature to rise, I went to Honey Bee Suite to read about a camouflage bee suit, and spent most of the time reading about the experiences (from all over the country) of unexpectedly large bee populations in the hives, considering the time of the year. That’s what my hive looks like as well–wall to wall bees with no sign of a cluster. Watching the traffic in and out showed pollen coming in and drones flying today.
Checking NOAA and Weather.com seems to suggest cooler than average temperatures in the southeast this spring, and wetter than normal–that suggests some time when foraging might be late or be sporadic. As I gathered from Honey Bee Suite, since the girls have already wiped out the candyboard, the question now is to feed more sugar, or not to feed and hope the honey supplies are adequate for the rest of the winter. (As a new beekeeper, I’m not great at judging honey supply just from lifting the boxes–experience should change that.)
If I’m going to feed, I have to open the hive and remove all that extra burr comb that the bees in the space where my candyboard was, so that I can put in some emergency sugar for the rest of this winter.
(I have a plastic queen excluder to put on the bottom of this candyboard frame so that I can add more sugar or fondant (over waxed paper) where the candyboard was before. Next year’s candyboard will have more support underneath–like the queen excluder–than this one did so that it won’t collapse onto the frames.)
This afternoon after the temperature had gone up, I thought I’d be able to open the hive and remove this big batch of burr comb; however, it is windy today. At my hive location, I estimated the wind at about 15 mph (local weather showed up to 18 mph). My thoughts on opening the hive in that much wind were first, there is brood in the frames just under this burr comb, and second, that there is too much wind to use the smoker effectively (have tried that).
I discovered with a quick peek at one corner of the quilt box that there are bees all over that burr comb. My bit of experience with the smoker tells me that there’s no way I’m going to be able to smoke them down into the hive with the wind. Even when trying to puff smoke when lifting the quilt box a bit wasn’t successful–it just blew away. Even though I don’t smoke heavily for my inspections, I don’t think I could remove that comb without smoking. (The girls that were flying were paying a lot more attention to me than they usually do on a beautiful calm day though they were not aggressive, but then I was just looking and not doing anything like taking the roof off of their home.) I’d suspect that scraping that much burr comb is likely to attract their attention.
From my last inspection, I know that there is brood on the frames just under that big batch of burr comb, so I am concerned about heat loss and chilling that brood. I’m going to have to scrape away that comb–and that means having the hive open longer than I’d think would be good for brood right under it.
The bottom line is that I wussed out and did not open the hive today and as the temperature drops I’m wondering (regretfully) if I should have done that little chore anyway. I did another “lift” and the hive feels heavy enough so that I think there’s likely enough honey for this next cool spell that’s coming. This uncertainty does mean that I’m going to have to attend to this problem soon!
There was a downside to the candy board, though. The whole thing was held in place only by four nails through the rim, so it collapsed down on the frames. That made inspection tough. Nex time, I’m going to staple a plastic queen excluder or hardware cloth on the bottom so that it can’t do that. As soon as I can open the hive and get rid of the massive burr comb that was built in its place after it was all eaten.
The bees certainly seemed to like it. Right now, I’ve got fondant to finish out the feeding season until I can put syrup back on.
Exactly the difficulty I face: it’s windy a bit cold. Should I open the box and stick the fondant in? If I don’t I won’t be able to get to it for another week…
What’s a candyboard look like? Do you have a photo of it in one of your other posts (might have missed it)?
This is an extremely frustrating situation! The yo-yo weather is hard on all concerned. I talked to a Master beekeeper yesterday and she suggested I need to get another hive ready since there are flying drones, and add more fondant/sugar to the hive. It’s likely to be a week before I can do any of that.
There is a photograph of the candyboard at https://a-single-serving.com/2015/12/14/hive-report-13-dec-2015/ that shows the big hole already eaten by the bees. It was originally solid candy–sugar, some pollen, and Honey-B-Healthy, It was about 1-1/2 inches thick (the size of an 8-frame box). It was supposed to last all winter–didn’t quite make it.
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Thanks for the pic. I like this better than our approach, some fondant in clingfilm. I still haven’t been home at the same time as a good weather day for opening a hive….