An Unscheduled Visit to the Hives

Well… hive I guess, since Hive 2 died back in November/December.

Yesterday, I had that gut feeling that told me to go heft Hive 1. I did, and I was surprised to find it on the light side. Light enough that I could lift both deeps with just one hand. I may be only a first-year beekeeper, but even I know that being that light means problems.

This winter has been so weird. It’s been extremely mild with very little snow. In fact, our first snow fall was only a week ago, and it was so minor that it was hardly worth mentioning. Saturday, it got over 50 degrees, and the bees were out in force. It’s been interesting.

Because of the warmth, though, I don’t know that the bees have ever truly clustered or that they ever really stopped raising large quantities of brood. They are tearing through their reserves at a remarkable pace, and the hefting confirmed that yesterday.

I tried to get a hold of Aleisha (my mentor), but when I couldn’t get her, I jumped to my second favorite source of instruction: YouTube! Most of the videos I saw showed people doing either a 2:1 sugar syrup OR just dry sugar. I did see one video where a guy put in two full frames of honey he had in reserve, and that’s when I remembered that I lost Hive 2 and that Hive 2 left behind a full deep full of honey.

I tried to find some support for putting that deep on top of Hive 1–essentially expanding the hive upwards to three deeps–and I couldn’t. I also, however, didn’t see anything online saying not to do it, so….

Late last night, in the rain, and with a friend holding a big umbrella over Hive 1, I did just that. It was very dark and kind of cold, so I worked very fast (less than 30 seconds with the hive actually open). I didn’t get to see too much of what was going on inside the hive because I was using the car headlights to give me light (horizontal instead of vertical light), but the bees did pour out the top when the lid came off. They also poured out of one general area, so it looks like they were at least somewhat clustered.

All in all, I’d claim it a success. I’d certainly rather not have to do that, but I’m glad I had the option.

Now, the pros:

  • I much prefer feeding the bees their own honey as opposed to sugar syrup or dry sugar. It’s just more natural for them.
  • The frames I added also had pollen in them, which is a second bonus.

For the cons:

  • It was cold. I wish I could have avoided that, but it looks like winter is finally settling in on us, and I could either do it now or in several weeks. I don’t know that they would have survived that long.
  • I gave them frames from a hive that died, and I still don’t know the cause of death. Right now, I’m assuming Varroa weakened the hive and then wasps finished it off, but I just don’t know. The good news is that the freezing temps we have had should have killed off most any dangers on those frames, but I simply don’t know.
  • I no longer have those ten frames to give the bees an early start in the spring.

I was also a little worried about getting them back down into two deeps, but since I plan on splitting that hive, I’m not all that worried.

Last note… Right before adding the third super, I hefted the box once more. I was probably off on my initial estimate (not as light as I thought), and doing the math in my head, I realized that they probably ate about half of their stores, which is roughly where they should be (roughly half-way through winter = half of their stores). So there is a chance I over reacted. But acting with less than complete knowledge, I did the best I could.

Now I’m hoping for validation from the rest of the beekeepers who read this…. (sitting here waiting with fingers crossed….)

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3 Responses to An Unscheduled Visit to the Hives

  1. aleisha says:

    sorry you couldn’t get a hold of me. my niece had a fever induced seizure and so i was babysitting the other siblings so mom and dad could deal with the hospital, etc.

    you did fine. sugar and honey end up being the same in the long run because of what the bees do to process the glucose….but it is nice to give them honey if you have it. the other thing you might want to do is call Chris and get a pollen patty so they have protein….that will also ensure a safe and live winter!

  2. Emily Heath says:

    Giving bees their own honey is always the best food. Plus the honeycombs provide great insulation, so you did good.

  3. daveloveless says:

    Thank you both! I’ve been worried (not really, but still…). It’s that worry that comes from a lack of knowledge.

    Aleisha–I hope your niece is doing okay.

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