Brrrr! Cold and wet weather is all around us. The bees are busy keeping the core of the winter cluster at 93.5 degrees. The bees closest to the center unhook their wings and shiver to create BTU’s. When they are tired, they go to the outer edge and the next girls in line step up to keep the warm coming to the baby brood. The outside edge is somewhere around 45 degrees. Now if you are lucky enough to still have bees, don’t forget to check their dry sugar or fondant supplies. As we approach the Winter Soltice, the queen will start to increase her egg laying. That means the additional bees will require additional food, so keep an eye on their supplemental food.
Now, if you lost your bees, this is the time to do detective work. Check the sticky board. Are there a bunch of mites on there? Take pictures of your frames and sticky board to have your mentor help you determine why the bees died. Remove the honey frames and freeze them for at least 48 hours to kill any wax moth eggs or larvae. Then do the detective work to see why your bees died. You are looking for disease, varroa, no brood, emergency queen cells, bees with their tongues out or deformed wings, K wings, greasy black bees, evidence of mustard colored bee diarrhea, bad odor, sunk or perforated brood or mold. Fall collapse is usually because of Varroa mites. Winter collapse is usually because of starvation. Do you see only drone brood? That could be a queen who became a drone layer or Laying Workers. Are there any emergency cells? That might be queen failure. Deformed wings are from a virus. Do you see white feces in the cells? That is Varroa poop. Did the bees die on the bottom board and in front of the hive with their tongues sticking out? That is pesticide poisoning. K wings can be from varroa, tracheal mites or Nosema. If the bees are head into cells, they most likely starved. If they are head into cells with more bees and even a queen piled on top, they were too cold. Does it smell in there? It could be AFB or EFB. Do the rope test to determine which one. Black greasy bees often have a paralytic virus. Sometimes chilled brood smells if you haven’t checked for a while. Are there mustard streaks on the front of the boxes? Nosema is the culprit. If there is mold on top of the cluster, they have been dead a while. If it is wet and the equipment is moldy there was too much condensation. Bees can withstand cold better than wet. This should help in your detective work!
Want to be successful at beekeeping? Educate yourself. We have classes that will be listed on the PSBA website in January. Education is power. Can you lift more than 40 pounds? Then you are fine with using deeps, but if not, you need to be using all mediums. Have you considered the time and cost it takes to keep bees? Don’t kid yourself, $600 for each colony is not unusual. Have you joined a club, found a mentor and read some books on beekeeping? Community is where you find help, answers, and bee buddies.
How do you start with bees? Buy bees in January (Check out the PSBA website and come to the January meeting-check the Calendar), they are often sold out by April. Bees are usually delivered in April and May. If your bees come from California, they will be ready in April. If you are buying local nucs, they are ready in May. What is the difference between packages and nucs? Packages are 3 pounds of unrelated bees with a separately raised queen in a cage. There is no food or drawn comb. A NUC is 5 drawn frames of bees, brood, food, and a laying queen. That is for a deep nuc. A medium nuc contains the same, but you get 8 drawn frames. And you need to decide what type of equipment you want: top bar, deep, medium, 10 frame or 8 frame. Then you need to order all your equipment, protective gear, and tools.
Info to make you smile! Bees often sleep two together in the hive or in a flower and they hold each other’s feet. So cute. Until next year, bee good and bee kind.