Monday, October 26, 2015

2015-10-25: Winter Prep

We've finally hit a few nights of freezing temps so that means it is time to complete any winter prep that needs to be done on the hives.  I have empty feeder jars that need to be removed, boxes with no stores in them that need to be taken off (the bees don't need a bunch of extra space that serves no purpose) and mouse guards to be placed on.  I also need to decide what to do with my newly established nuc hives.

Old Nucs - Yellow/Green hives:

These are the splits I made some time ago that were moved into full sized boxes last month.  They've been feed 2 quarts of syrup each in the hopes that they would draw the empty frames with wax and start filling them up.  If I found 10 good frames then I was thinking to take two nuc bodies (5 frames each) and stack them.  It is suppose to be easier for the bees to move up in the winter and it would be easier for the bees to cover 5 frames at a time instead of 10.

Yellow Nuc:

I had suspicions during the last inspection that I had waited too long to transfer this nuc to a full sized hive and they decided to swarm (I saw some torn open queen cells).  The bees seemed "flighty" and the only brood I saw were drones.  The number of drones walking around the frames was high, especially since they should all be kicked out of the hive by now!  I did spot some eggs and developing larva but something was telling me that this was not right. 

Drones, lava and eggs but no queen

So, either I have the start of laying workers or I have a queen laying all drones.  On top of that, the bees had not touched a single new frame that I had placed into the hive.  Stay tuned for more on the Yellow Nuc during my inspection of the Green Nuc....

Green Nuc:

I was a bit annoyed after pulling the first few frames since the bees had not touched them at all.  Thankfully the original 5 frames that were moved into the hive looked pretty good.  Lots of capped honey and worker brood!  Two more frames in and I spotted the queen with her pretty green dot. 

Queen with a pretty green dot

I was even nicely surprised that after I moved past these 5 frames the bees were actually drawing out one of the new frames! 

Drawing out a frame with new wax
Have I mentioned how I love festooning bees before?  =) 

Festooning bees
 Based on my findings between both nucs, I decided the one was probably queenless and had the start of laying workers and the other was queen right.  I thought it would be a good idea to take two 5 frame nuc boxes and stack them with the best frames from each hive.  I unscrewed the bottom from one of the nuc boxes and stacked it on top of another nuc box.  Crap!  They are not made to stack.  There was a large gap between the two that would be open to the air.  Ugh.  I guess I need to deal with the full sized boxes instead.  I decided to do a newspaper combine and thankfully I had one sheet of newspaper left!  I placed it across the top of Green nuc, picked up the Yellow nuc off of its bottom board and placed it on top of the Green nuc.  The bees will eventually chew through the paper and this slow integration will hopefully prevent any fighting between the bees before they merge together into one happy family.  I'm just hoping that there wasn't some drone laying queen that I didn't spot in the Yellow nuc that ends up battling with Green nuc's queen.

Newspaper combine complete

Where did that orange pollen come from?
Yellow Hive:

This is my cutout hive that has made some really good progress over the summer.  I removed the empty feeder jar and took a look through the top box.  The bees were covering about 6 frames and had most of them drawn out. 

Yellow Hive bees

Quite a few were filled with capped honey.  Looking down into the box below I saw lots of bees and some rubber bands still on the frames from the cutout!!  They typically chew through them and dispose of them but I'm guessing they've propolised them right onto the frames now.  I'll have to remove them during the first inspection in the Spring.

Green Hive:

The top honey super on this hive was filled with drawn combs that were completely empty.  I thought for sure that when I added them that the bees would fill them quickly with the Goldenrod flow.  No such luck.  I pulled this box off after clearing a few stray bees off the frames.  I pulled a few frames from the next honey super and at least there was some capped honey there.  Looks like that box will stay on for the Winter.

White Hive:

Looking at the top honey super on this hive I could see that it was packed.  I knew this from my last inspection but I had also seen a large pile of dead bees in front of the hive.  I was concerned that this hive had been robbed out by other bees.  Well not a single frame of honey appeared to be touched so this hive should have some great stores going into Winter.  It also had a nice population of bees and when I looked closely at the pile of dead bees I saw numerous dead yellow jackets in the pile.  Maybe they tried to raid the hive and picked the wrong one to screw with!

Battle aftermath
To complete my tasks I needed to put the mite sampling boards back into the hives that had screened bottoms to prevent any wind drafts blowing up from the bottom of the hives.  With that done I also wanted to put my mouse guards on but with the entrance reducers on it didn't really look like they would fit properly.  Based on it looks like #4 hardware cloth is the proper size for a mouse guard.  So I think I'll grab some and use that instead.

I'm also considering getting or building some candy boards that come with a top entrance.  This would allow the bees to leave the hive for a cleansing flight during the Winter if the bottom entrance happened to be plugged up with dead bees.

With four hives going into Winter and some diversified genetics (one Italian, one cutout wild open mated and two "northern" queens), I'm hoping to have some better luck overwintering this year.  Wish for a mild Winter and wish the girls luck!

Until next time, thanks for reading!


  1. Great to hear how they are progressing. I also am wishing for a mild winter. On your hive with the pile of dead bees in front - I have one like that. I wonder how much of it is just that they had a large population of bees and therefore more bees to die off. Plus, they don't take them too far away.

    Next year my goal is to get some nucs going. I have a plan. Plans are good. Have you heard about Michael Palmer's method for overwintering nucs? Very interesting article. Makes me braver to try it next year.

    1. So far I haven't seen a "pile" of dead bees in front of the hives unless there was a pesticide kill. Otherwise I see some dead bees here and there. I've watched the bees cart off the dead one and sometimes they fall right off the landing board and sometime they seem to just fly off with the dead. I don't think the normal death rate has been enough that is covers the gravel underneath my hives. I am making an assumption that because there were dead yellow jackets in the pile that they were the cause. That might not be the case.

      No, I hadn't seen his method. Although it sounds like I almost followed it! My nucs were made at the end of summer. And one appeared to have swarmed on the Fall flow!

      Your plans for nucs start with making the boxes and having the frames. Get to it! =)