Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God, do you learn.

-C.S. Lewis

Stream In January

Stream In January

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ready For Winter

After taking the sourwood honey from Walter a few weeks ago, I combined some dark honey I had also taken with the few frames of honey in Ora and each hive ended up with almost 16 full shallow frames of honey stores for the winter. I had hoped each colony would continue to draw comb and make a bit more honey, but the honeyflows are long over and I knew it would probably not happen. Last week I talked with 3 fellow beekeepers about what they left on the hives for the winter. As beekeepers know, I got 3 different answers to the same question.

Kelley has taken off all the honey and has started to feed with top feeders. She will continue as long as the bees take the sugar syrup and will resume in the spring until the first honeyflow. She is a small commercial beekeeper with 50 hives and the honey is an important source of income for her. She is also a very successful organic gardener and shitake mushroom producer.

Al has also taken off all the honey. He is also a small commercial producer, but has only about 20 hives. After he takes the honey, he adds a shallow super with 10 frames of drawn comb. He feeds sugar syrup until the bees have completely filled the frames with the syrup. He won't feed again until spring unless necessary.

Tom is a 3rd year beekeeper with 8 hives. All of his hives are 8-frame medium boxes. He will leave 1 honey-filled box, and in addition to the honey stores in the brood box, feels this should be the proper amount for the bees to successfully overwinter. Approximately 60 pounds of honey.

This weekend I did my final work in the hives to prepare for winter. Each hive now has 1 shallow super filled with honey. Any drawn comb or partially capped honey will be safely stored. I got my first look at wax moth damage last week and I don't want to risk that. It was not pretty. When I lift my hives, they are heavy and I, too feel they have adequate honey for the winter.

I also did sticky board mite counts last week. The results were encouraging. Ora had very few mites. I had to look hard to find any. This was a nuc hive I started in the spring and I didn't really expect to find much there. Walter is my second year hive and had considerably more mites, but not enough to be alarming. It's close to impossible to get a good count because of all the other junk that falls out of a hive. It didn't really matter in either hive how many mites I saw, they both got the powdered sugar shake.

In talking to Kelley last week about the mite count she passed along some information that made my think about mite counts in a new light. Although I saw more mites in Walter, she said that might not be a bad thing. It's very possible that those bees are just more hygienic, cleaning more, thus ridding themselves of more mites. That would be a very good trait to have in a hive. I'll continue to compare the hives in the spring. I'm also going to use 1 frame of drone comb in each hive in the spring.

Goldenrod is blooming everywhere. Lots of bees, bumble and honey, and butterflies.
Wild, blue asters blooming in the park and all along the roads. My backyard is full of asters and bees.

As I was working in the hives on Sunday morning, my husband came up and remarked that I had observation hives - I work, he observes. Ha ha. He doesn't love the bees and garden like I do, but he does all the heavy work for me. He's also gotten quite good at constructing hive boxes, stands, etc. Will save us lot of money if and when I add more bees. He took this very unflattering picture of me, but that's how I work in the hives. Hat and veil, long sleeve white shirt, most of the time shorts, but this cool morning, baggy sweatpants. I forgot to put on my gloves and ended up with a sting on the hand. Mostly just aggravating because it cost a bee her life. In the right of the picture is the screen mesh frame I placed over the bees when I shook the sugar in. I got this idea from a fellow blogger, Steven, and it worked great! Kept the bees from flying out in my face. They don't much care for the sugar bath.

I didn't disturb the brood box on either hive. It's very late in the season. The drones have been gone for several weeks now and I didn't want to risk injury to my queens. There would be zero chance of the bees raising a successful new queen now since there would be no drones to mate with. Both hives are still humming with activity. It's the contented hum of successful bees. As fall turns to winter, the weather will occasionally warm to mid-50's and I'll take quick peeps under the inner cover to check honey stores. On cold, cold winter days, a thump to the side of the box will hopefully bring the reassuring buzzz from the inside that all is well.


Ngaio said...

Lynn, your garden looks beautiful, puts mine to shame !! I am having acouple of days off work soon so hope to get out and start tidying up and planting before it gets to warm.
I think you and I have very similar tastes in life, would you like to correspond more often and maybe exchange photos of our respective worlds ? My email is marcia.meehan@wintec.ac.nz this is a work address, my home one is abit cranky at the moment, thanks to one teenage daughter loading her new laptop on with my address !
I won`t mind if you would rather not, I just have a feeling we would get on well ..

My hive that you can see on my blog isn`t actually a TopBar hive, I just left some frames out and forgot to put them back ! But funny you should say you are interested in TB`s so am I. I have just had one made for me and will post pics when the roof goes on this week. I am so excited and can`t wait to get bees for it now. No one, and I mean NO ONE in NZ wants to know about them, I usually get very negative responses from beekeepers when I mention thats what I want. Since having the hive at home I have had quite abit of interest, mainly from younger people ! There is not alot of info, mainly American or English, I got the plans from a great website called `The Barefoot Beekeeper` Phil is a real voice for natural beekeeping.

Sorry this is so long and rambly, where I live we don`t have really cold winters, can get down to minus4c and up to 30c in the summer, gets alot colder in the southern regions of the country and is quite mediterranian up north.

Paul said...

Lynn, always a pleasure reading your blog. Thanks for posting.

Cliff W said...

I second Ngaio's comments. Your garden is so naturalistic. Beautiful woodland. The photos of the garden through the seasons are fascinating.

There seems to be quite a lot of TB talk in these parts, especially from the "greener" contingent of the community. I haven't really looked at them yet - it's still very early days in my "career" as a beek.

We had our first lecture last night about wintering the bees. A good turn out again but so much emphasis on varroa and its treatment. I've carried out mite-drop counts - nothing. [All the equipment is brand new this season - except the transfered frames from the nucleus]. Regardless, we were all recommended to treat with Bayvarol as a precaution. I dislike the idea of this sort of precautionary chemical treatment.

Interestingly a couple of my fellow beginners were telling me of their problems - robbing, dead Queens, aggressiveness, the list goes on. They've learned so much. I seem to have been very fortunate.

On a lighter note, we received news that all those who took the preliminary exam passed. It was hardly rocket-science but it's my first beekeeping qualification. We're told that we should be presented with our certificates from the President of the Federation of Irish Beekeeping Association next month.

PhilipH said...

Some superb photographs again Lynn, and they lose no definition when enlarged on my laptop.

I hope this V.mite problem does not become a worry. What, if anything, are you planning to do to eliminate these pests?

Golden Rod: my mother used to grow that all the time. I am somewhat 'plagued' by a plant called (in the UK) Loosestrife, the yellow variety. It may be officially called Lysimachia vulgaris.

It spreads so easily as to become a bit of a problem. I pull out the excess but still it spreads. Some garden centres actually sell this plant! It is OK in small clumps but I am not over keen on it.

Steven C. said...

Thanks for the mention of me re: the sugar screen. I feel I've moved up in the blogging world - my first reference!!

Lynn said...

Hey guys. Thanks, again, to all of you who comment. The garden is due to lots of work on my part and Mother Nature. I'm not happy unless I'm digging in the dirt and I'm very fortunate to live in an area of abundant native wildflowers. Philip, I have the same loosestrife. I leave it because I love the sweet smell of those tiny yellow flowers! And sometimes I just get lucky with the camera.

The more I look at TB hives, the more inclined I am to go that way in the spring. Thanks, Ngaio, for The Barefoot Beekeeper website. I'm going to order the book. I've lots to learn, but it seems a good option for me since I preach "organic gardening and beekeeping" to anybody who will listen. I'll be in touch by email :)

Cliff, congrats on the certification. Our test isn't very hard, either. I hope, in the next couple of years, to go on to the next level of journeyman. I did a bit of reading on Bayvarol and to me it just seems another chemical the bees don't need in the hive. Researchers at The University of Georgia and North Carolina State are really beginning to advocate soft treatments such as the powdered sugar shake. My feeling is, as we say in the south, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Lynn said...

Hi Steven. I was writing my comment while your comment came in. Thanks to you. The screen worked great! I realized when I looked at the picture everything I need when working the hive was there. The hive tool, smoker, brush, frame-lifter, gloves, that I forgot to put on and now the screen!