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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    Northfield, Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    13

    Default Smoke or No smoke

    They are saying 50 degrees today. I was thinking about putting a sugar board on. One of my hives that did not get one this fall. Still so new to this, it's my first winter with 4 hives. So do I smoke a little when going in quick or not? Anything I should be looking for on this quick look? I will try too answer this, live bees in a cluster ok that part is over what else should I looking for?

    Thanks in advance

    Deans Bees

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Location
    Washington County, Maine
    Posts
    2,866

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    You won't be disturbing the cluster or pulling frames. A few guards may fly out to investigate when you pop the top but nothing too serious. Does the hive need a sugar board? If you are convinced that they will starve without it go ahead and put it on. Otherwise I'd leave the hive shut.

    It is in the upper 30s here right now. I intend to walk the bee yards today and look for signs that the bees are doing their thing. I may heft some hives if I suspect they are light on stores, but most of my looking will be for dead bees that have been removed from the hive (a good thing as that means there are live bees to do the removing)

    To answer your question on smoke, it should not be necessary.
    Master Beekeeper (EAS) and Master Gardener (U Maine CE) www.beeberrywoods.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Erin, NY /Florence SC
    Posts
    3,361

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    Always smoke as calm bees are happy bees. At 50F I would:
    1) Check the entrance to make sure your reducer is not plugged with dead bees ( expect to find dead bees from the winter cluster)
    2) Puff a bit of smoke in the entrance and listen for a buzz.
    3) Are their a few dead bees, a pile of dead bees fresh bees on the ground, A pile may mean starvation.
    4) is there defecation on the front of the hive/bottom board - could mean dysentary - if so research and address
    5) Give a little heft at the rear - still should have most of it's season weight as brood rearing will start in about 2 weeks in your area nomrally and still months of brood rearing before coltsfoot in March.
    6) Pop the lid - puff of smoke, if your are running doubles are the bees in the top or the bottom. If they are in the top might be getting low on stores. Can you see capped honey?? Expect a few guard bees to do a frontal assault.
    7) How many frames does the cluster cover. 4 frames is good - 3 frames is a maybe and less is a future dead out
    8) Is their moisture on the lid, if so, ventilate by raising the lid by proping the cover
    9) Is your bear fence working????

    Make a list of issues, feed ASAP if needed with warm 2:1 syrup on top and plan your next visit.

    You are smart to check early, you can break a cluster at 50F if you find an emergency and This list is what I'd do. A little sugar on the inner cover even for a stocked hive never hurts.

    Go home , make a good cup of brew and revel in the knowlege your girls are alright and you've done all you can until the next warm spell!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Palermo, Maine, USA
    Posts
    731

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    Quote Originally Posted by Joel View Post

    feed ASAP if needed with warm 2:1 syrup on top and plan your next visit.
    The OP is in Massachusetts, so he may want to consider using a candy board or dry sugar instead of syrup.
    Like us on facebook This is the place to bee!
    Ralph

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Rowley, MA
    Posts
    251

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    Other than lifting to check weight I would not do anything unless that indicated an issue. It is going to be cold this week so the less disturbance the better. I have never used smoke in the winter.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,406

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    If you are going to add a candy board or sugar I would have the smoker lit and ready to go before popping the top. If they are down below you won't need it. Sometimes you'll open one up and find the cluster at the top. A quick puff of smoke will keep them calmer and encourage them to move down off the top bars, making it easier for you to add your sugar.

    I also agree that is the hive feels heavy when lifting, just leave them alone. But if you do need to add sugar just make it quick.
    To everything there is a season....

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Location
    Wisconsin rapids Wi USA
    Posts
    43

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    I made a mt camp to feed sugar later when it got warmer. but, my bees have been up by the top enterance for some time so I thought i should do it sooner. so last wk it got up to 36 degrees I didnt want to open up, so I cut a 1/8 in panel the size of the hive. lifted the top (quilt) a 1/8 inch slid the panel in very slowly, took quilt off ,placed mt camp on, then the quilt on it and pulled the panel out, never exposing the bees ( I wet the sugar when I filled it, so it had set and was hard on the outside so it did not fall down on the bees)

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    KC, MO, USA
    Posts
    1,168

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    I have feral bees, which are nice most of the time and I rarely get stung. I can sit next to the entrance and watch them without a problem. But lifting the inner cover when they are cranky is another thing.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    owensboro,ky
    Posts
    2,240

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    ".... But lifting the inner cover when they are cranky is another thing...."
    therein lies the rub. one seldom knows if they are "cranky" till the cover is lifted. this is especially true for new beekeepers.,thus my blanket recommendation to light one's smoker.
    "Wine is a constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy" Ben Franklin

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,406

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    I think it would also be interesting to know which has the more long lasting impact on colony disruption or confusion - a puff of smoke, or alarm pheromone.
    To everything there is a season....

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Granby, CT
    Posts
    547

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Gillmore View Post
    I think it would also be interesting to know which has the more long lasting impact on colony disruption or confusion - a puff of smoke, or alarm pheromone.
    That is still one dimensional approach.
    It is getting warmer in CT 12 F. Would you still use smoke in CT today?

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Massillon, Ohio
    Posts
    3,406

    Default Re: Smoke or No smoke

    Under normal circumstances I would never lift the lid on a hive unless it's flying weather. However, if a colony is about to starve I would remove the lid and add sugar regardless of what the temperature might be.

    Pop the lid, a quick puff of smoke to move the bees down off the top bars, add another box, add newspaper and sugar, close it up. In less than a minute you're in and out. Take a peek 10 minutes later and the bees will be back up top and all over the sugar.

    I don't at all consider this a recommended practice for this time of year, but if the bees are facing starvation it's an effective emergency measure. I've had to do it before in the middle of winter, and the bees do survive. Poor management on my part but these things happen sometimes.

    Whether or not to use smoke in this situation ... I guess it depends on your bees. I have a collection of mongrels, survivor bees if you will. They are not aggressive if handled properly, but if I were to remove the lid right now without a shot of smoke to momentarily confuse them, they would probably be pouring out of the hive after me in a defensive action. If I had super calm docile bees there would be no need for the smoke. Know your bees and use common sense
    Last edited by Mike Gillmore; 01-26-2013 at 06:43 AM.
    To everything there is a season....

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