After Five Months
Finally, a break last Sunday, great weather and I’m home. It was sunny, over 70°F, and no wind, a good day for opening up beehives for the first inspection. I have removed insulation from all hives and opened them up for the first time after five months. As I suspected, only hive#1 survived the winter. The other four hives were gone, one died of starvation and the other three froze to death. Even with the insulation, there was some crystalized sugar syrup that I had fed them in autumn remaining in the hives. The hives that starved still had capped honey in a corner but they apparently couldn’t get to it. We had a really bad winter this year, with temperatures that dropped as low as -11°F. I think I should go back to using 1.5 inch foam board as insulation.
But that one out of five hives survived is still better than nothing. They are pretty healthy too.
Aside from removing the insulation and inspection, I also switched the supers. The bees usually move upward in the hive. They pack the bottom super in fall and by the end of winter they cluster at the top super. That is why hive#1 has been using the top entrance. It’s much faster to go through the top than using the bottom entrance and climb up two flights. There were also plenty of dead bees on the screened bottom board which probably narrowed down their path to the outside world as well.
I felt so happy when I opened the cover up and found plenty of bees looking back at me. There are plenty of them in hive#1 with plenty of food. There were also new larvae. That was a sign that the queen is doing a good job. After switching the supers, I also removed the well used frames and replaced them with fresh ones. I cleaned the dead bees off the screened bottom board and replaced a corrugated mite count sheet. I will remove the mite count sheet when the weather is warm enough so the hive will have good air circulation
The bees were pretty mellow and busy taking nectar and pollen in. Not long after I closed the hive, they started using the bottom entrance as their main route into the hive. Once in a while some bees would take their load up to the top. I will keep the entrance at 1 inch until the temperature stays steady above 50°F to help them keep warm in the hive. See how busy honeybees are.
I’m debating whether to feed them sugar syrup since they are pretty busy taking in nectar and pollen. There are plenty of Maples, Alder and other trees and flowers around here beginning to bud. Well, to feed or not to feed? ‘That is the buzz.’