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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello,

This is my first year with honeybees. I got my first nuc this spring so this is my first winter with the bees. I confess to being a little nervous. Right now I am struggling with determining whether or not to open the hive and see if the hard candy/pollen is necessary. I don't want to open up the hive, let the heat out and cause them stress, but I don't want them to starve in there either. I did not heft the hive when it was full of honey so I have no idea how heavy it ought to be now. I want to do right by the bees, whether 'right' is to act or not to act. It seems I must open the hive to know but due to lack of experience I find myself hesitating. Anyone have any ideas? This week daytime temps are supposed to be in the 30's and night time temps in the high teens. The wind is almost always blowing here but there are days when it is more breezy than windy. Thanks for any help you could offer.
 

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Pick the "warmest" day you can with sunshine...with the least wind...and make a real quick peak. If you get in and out quickly, you should be ok...again, especially if you have sunshine. Best of luck.
 

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If you have a screened bottom board on the hive you could pull out the tray, clean it off and put it back.
Go back 2 days later and see if there is debris on the board. If there is, the bees are alive and you can tell what area of the box they are in from the location of the debris.
If there is no debris, chances are your bees have not made it.
 

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The possible stress you might cause a colony by tipping up the inner cover...non-existant in my opinion...is less stress than allowing them to starve.

I've been into hundreds of hives and hundreds of nucs already. Nothing wrong or stressful in peeking under the inner cover. If it's cold enough, the bees won't even notice your intrusion. You don't even need any smoke...it doesn't do any good when it's cold anyway.

Tip up the inner cover slowly. How large is the cluster...fist, grapefruit, mellon, basketball? Do you see honey? Are the bees in contact with the honey? If you don't see honey at the edges of the cluster, jab your hive tool down into the combs at the edges of the cluster. Does it come up with honey on the end?

If you see a cluster of several frames, and the bees are in contact with honey, then they're ok for now. If no honey, feed. If there is a cluster stuck ovr on one side of the hive and the honey on the other, either move a frame of honey into contact with the bees of add your candy or some fondand directly on the cluster. A quick check like this takes less than a minute.

Yesterday was in the mid-30s here in the Champlain valley. I checked a few nucs for brood...yes, there were some eggs. No damage done. They hardly broke cluster.

Bees are way more resiliant than most give them credit for. This myth that you have to wait until a sunny, warm, calm day in the 50s to open your hive is just that. A myth.
 

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I kind of prefer to do this when it is really cold, yesterday was -10 'C (14 F) but no wind as it usually is when cold. The hive is open about half a minute, if I open then I feed fondant. It is good to deal with the dead-outs when they are frozen, less messy.

Bees that have broken cluster gets a black push-pin on the back of the hive, meaning that they might get excluded from breeding. If they behave, like clean the bottom board, sit in nice cluster, easy to work with, etc they get a pink push-pin. Other colors are for queen age with number for line id. This is about the only record-keeping I do.
 

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Welcome aboard. Used to live in Presque Isle. My kids went to school there. Miss the County a lot. Good luck with the bees!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well now, that was quite a Welcome indeed. Thank you all for your advice and insight. I did check on the bees and they seemed very plentiful and quite active. I gave them some hard candy since I was in there already. It is very reassuring to know that good people will share their knowledge and experience with others. Many thanks-
 
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