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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It snowing this week...cold with wet snow and wind.

I have one hive on the end of the patio and risked peeking in the top. I haven't checked them for about 3 weeks...bad weather and I've been away.

There was some condensation between the foam board and inner cover but enough to have a wet inner board...some dripped onto the inner board when I peeked under.

I lifted a corner of the quilt to see if there was any sugar block left on top of the frames.

At first I couldn't see anything but bees! ...they are wall to wall several deep on top the frames. After a moment I could discern a bit of white which I presume us some sugar brick..only a quick glimpse.

I really have no idea if there is adequate sugar or not.

If I decide to put in more, or have a better when the weather improves...it can't stay like this forever...how does one avoid squishing lots of bees when you "slip" a piece of sugar brick in?

Do you leave it open enough to smoke them down even it remains below freezing with freezing rain or snow.

I take it it one has to have lows of 50 before changing over to syrup.

Thanks for advice.
 

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I have never used a smoker in the winter. To answer your question, I suggest putting dry sugar on top of the bars (paper underneath of course) and they will slowly move down and out of the way; pour the sugar slowly.
 

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I added an entire "box" n top of what was already there. I say "box" because it is really just a 3" deep shim box with hardware cloth on the bottom, then a layer of newspaper, and then another 25# of sugar.

I have read that others will pull the covers off, then lay newspaper atop the bees, then slowly pour sugar on them. they will move down and away from the weight oft eh new sugar. I have never done this, but it sounds reasonable.
 

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When I have to add more sugar blocks I just move slowly and push the bees aside a bit and then very slowly lower the block down on to the bars. My bees are remarkably mellow on the sugar bricks and rarely does one get excited enough to fly. They are not normally so tranquil so I think it must be a seasonal (cooler temp?) thing, or they just love Laurie's Recipe so much that they are totally stoned. The biggest problem I have is not making space on the bars for new blocks, that goes easily, but I have big bee-blobs and clusters hanging down from the "roof" of the feeding chamber (actually it's the fabric floor of the quilt box above) and they occupy so much space that new blocks would crush them from below. So I just use my bare fingers (and I am not usually a bare-handed bee-wrangler) to slooowly move the blobs away from right over where the new brick is going. I tried gloved fngers, various wooden pushers, etc., and nothing works as well as my fingers delicately nudging them to move over. At first I was flummoxed, but when I finally dared to use my bare hand, it worked amazingly well.

I try not to open the chambers when it's terribly cold (say below freezing) but I have added more sugar when it was in the 30's, without an issue. I don't like doing it then mostly because I am hungry to get some bee-watching in, but dare not due to temps, so the drill is this: lift quilt box to peek in > determine if they need more > close up > prepare appropriate-sized chunk > open and carefully set block down, moving bees aside as necessary with the edge of block and then lower it down to the top bars slowly to avoid squashing > while still open (holding box in left hand), use now free right hand to move the hanging bees above the new block aside > sigh because I could watch them for half an hour, but I know seconds count, so I > quickly lower box back down and square it up. Later that day I can shine a flashlight in the upper entrance/vent hole and see the bees have "occupied" the new chunks and are happily munching away.

One of the advantages of the blocks is that they are solid and can be quickly manipulated in cold temps. My feeding shim is only 1.5" high, and the last batch of bricks I made was about 1" thick, which is too thick for that space. Next batch will be thinner, so less issue with hanging bee-blobs.

The first couple of replenishments didn't go so well, with my tense (and jerky) movements and a few bees launching themselves at my hands in response. When I slowed myself down and got in the groove - ignoring my exposed bare fingers - it was much easier. My bees are congratulating themselves on having finally taught me that lesson in beekeeping technique. I am sure they think I am a very slow learner, but they give me credit for keeping on trying.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have some pre made sugar bricks..I guess I could slip in paper and once the bees go down slide in the chunks of sugar bricks. For someone new it was rather intimidating seeing a space so filled with bees. They are also building comb up there between the frames and the wire below the quilt.
 

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enj makes a good point about the bees in cold weather. I'm the type of guy that wants to be all hardcore and one with the bees, but i wear a full suit and at least nitrile gloves. In the winter its the usual carharts but I still put on a veil. When i added feed to my first hive, i did the jarring drop to dislodge bees from the quilt box. This caused a couple dozen to fly to their ultimate frozen death. The second hive i did the same, with similar results. The third hive i used my bee brush to brush the bees off the quilt box with marginal success. The rest of the hives, i used a hive tool to gently "scrape" the bees off of the quilt box and i had only one single bee fly away from the cluster. What i learned from this is that the bees are incredibly docile (more likely preoccupied with keeping warm) and can be manipulated out of the way, but shaking and brushing them are not effective. I suspect that i could have easily bare handed them out of the way, but I'm a coward. I'll take a few stings like any beekeeper, but there is just something in my lizard brain that wants to avoid direct contact with the stinging buggers.

I'm not sure of any of that rambling helps you, but the bees are not to be feared in the cold. I"m glad i got the chance to learn that lesson, but it did cost the lives of a number of my poor bees.
 

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I don't think you need any paper, my bricks are just set on the top bars. Paper might obscure your view a bit, adding risk of squashing. Are your bricks firm enough to hold together without support? I can see that there is some rising mositure within my hive that collides with and slightly alters the sugar, which I think is good thing that might be obstructed by a paper doily underneath. (But your hives may be more high class than mine, and really appreciate the nicer things in life!)

I do know what you mean by the intimidation factor, however. The first time I put the bricks in there were just a some bees on the top bars. But after they found out about bricks they've been hanging out, en masse, there all winter. So the first time I went back in to check and replenish I was not at all prepared to see the roiling masses of bees. OMG! They didn't fly out at me as I thought they would, but still it freaked me out because I wasn't wearing a veil (a down parka and woolen hat and mittens was more likely). So I went around to the back of the hives and and clumsily slid in more bricks from there, even though it wasn't "right over the cluster" as Laurie directed, but I didn't know what else to do and had no time to try anything else because of incoming bad weather. I noodled over the next 7 -10 days what I'd try next. The second refill time it was a bit warmer (barely 40F), but sleeting so I couldn't take the blankets off my hives and open them from behind. This was the worst time because a number of bees flew out at me, and they almost certainly perished due to the weather. I skimped on the adding all the needed blocks because I was too chicken to mess with trying to move the bees aside. Then we had two weeks of really terrible, below freezing (often below zero) weather when I couldn't risk reopening the hives at all and I knew I might have, out of fear and cowardice, left them short of sugar bricks after having "lured" them up out of the safety of main hive bodies. I kept peering in the vent holes trying to make sure I could see sugar, but was thoroughly miserable about what I feared might be happening.

So I decided that the next time I would have to do what had to be done, no matter what. I anxiously waited for the first possible day to check and re-stock. The time/day arrived somewhat unexpectedly and I couldn't find my right glove, so I just wrapped a rubber band around the sleeve of my hive jacket and continued on. When my efforts to push them aside with a wooden paint stirrer and a feather didn't work, I decided to take the chance to try and nudge the bees aside just using my fingers and it made such a difference. Perhaps it's something as simple as the fact that my bare digits were so vulnerable that made my movements soft and non-threatening vs. when I am protected by somewhat ill-fitting (even XS is too large for my small fingers) leather coverings, or maybe the gloves smell of bee-fear or squashed bees from previous (mis)adventures in my hives. Something was different and it was a revelation to me. The character of my hand movements would be like softly pushing a stray lock of hair off a sleeping child's face without disturbing her.

Although I am very keen on my bees, mostly I have felt intimidated by them and often deeply discouraged at my own lack of skill and knowledge in caring for them. Whether or not my bees needed the sugar blocks to survive the winter, I am very grateful for having read of Laurie's use of them and for her recipe because the provision of them and, now the experience of close-in handling of them, has added a great deal to my experience of being a caretaker for my hives. Or maybe the girls having little else to do in this endless arctic winter have spent a lot time online reading up on "how to train clumsy new beeks", just like I'm spending time on BS trying to up my skill-level, too.

It's interesting that yours are building comb up there. Mine aren't building anything. Do you have a top opening that lets in a bit of light, or is it completely dark? I ask because in the three days after I moved my hives in early December my bottom entrances were completely sealed up to prevent them from going out. In that suddenly dark space one of my hives began drawing new combs hanging below the bottom of the frames in the bottom hive body (My brood chambers are elevated above their bottom board by a 1.5 high draft-skirt shim so I have an unusual amount of space there.) I saw it as soon as I peered in the bottom after opening up the bottom entrance. I was looking for masses of dead bees resulting from the move (there were none, thankfully) and what I saw were these beautiful pearlescent arcs of brand new, soft white comb that hadn't been there three days before. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. As soon as the entrance was once again open (if a half-inch square reduced for winter entrance could be described as "open") and a small amount of light came in the comb-drawing abruptly stopped. I have concluded the comb-building was dark-driven, but I don't know for sure. Amazing creatures, aren't they?

Good luck with your efforts to add the bricks. I'd be interested in knowing how it goes.

Enj.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My blocks are solid, some I have broken into chunks. I do small top entrances so that would let in some light. I now figure I will have to use a hive tool to cut the new comb to release the frames from the bottom of the quilt so I can lift it a bit to slide in the brick. I hadn't planned on leaving the paper in..simply placing it to displace the bees...then quickly remove it and replace with sugar. There was still the odd bit of white visible..perhaps it will last until the weather warms up:)
I put some pieces of brick in some hives in January. The bees were not pleased. I cracked the quilt box up and out they came...only too ready to sting..which they did without fore thought!

I wonder how long this inclement weather will last?
 

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I use small pieces of 1/2" x 1/2" wire mesh, folded into a stand, place the feed on the stand, then gently place the stand among the bees. Every so often a bee or two doesn't get out of the way quickly enough, but most times they all do.

Most often I use this technique to feed pollen sub patties, but it should work just as well for sugar bricks, or fondant, especially if waxed paper, with small holes punched in it, is used to help hole soft feed in place above the wire stand.
 

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Well, as they say, all beekeeping is local ......

Do you recall what temp it was when your bees took exception to their last food delivery?

Because I had no other choice this winter I have been adding chunks when the air temps are in the mid 30s F. Perhaps as KPeacock noted, their calmness (psychic torpor?) is largely temperature dependent and in your case choosing a cooler day than normal might be better than in mine where I am hoping just to get a day warm enough. I note that you are in Z8, while I am in Z4. Even when I think it might get a bit warmer I choose the first possible day to check and replenish rather than waiting for it to get to the 40s which might not arrive in the end.

One of the things I have noted about my quilt-box equipped hives is that the air temp in the feeding chamber is quite a bit warmer than I was expecting having read of the earlier scientific studies of winter cluster and intra-hive ambient temps. Even when my bees aren't right up top and getting a sugar high, the feeding shim temp is rarely below 65-70F , and when they are there it's in the 90s. I don't know if a sugar-block fed hive without a quilt box (and some extra roof insulation as well) would be as "up-in-the-attic" and therefore as in your face when the QB is lifted.

Also messing with their comb-construction might annoy them more. Is it just burr comb, or are they adding storge or brood cells?

I think that at any temp where they could handle liquid feed, you might be able to use smoke. If you're between my temps (fearsome) and the 50s, I wonder if you could use a little spritz of sugarwater and Honey B Healthy to get some control of their impulses. I used sugar water a lot last summer in my first few months as a new beekeeper (until late season when I didn't want any extra sugar syrup droplets around to attract robbers). My husband scoffed, but I found it was quite effective at calming things down. In cold weather (like mine) a water spritz might be too chilling but in, say, from the mid 40s and up a quick little diversion might do the trick. I use 1:1 syrup, diluted again half and half with plain water, but I think anything works. If nothing else it stimulates allogrooming, so maybe they'll dislodge a mite or too in the process.

I wish you very good luck.

Enj.
 

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I use the lauriebloks also and all I do is quickly lift off the quilt box being careful not to spill any shavings , then gently set the blocks right on top of the bees on top of the frames . There are tons of bees up there so the weight is well distributed . the bees then slowly move down the frames until the block rests directly on the top bars ,,,,,then its buffet time !!! I don't spend any time looking ( even though I want too ) and quickly close the hive up . The whole process takes maybe a minute.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
When I got stung it was around freezing and overcast!
They say we are to get another 5"of snow today then freezing rain.
I was thinking of bringing home an arthroscope and using it peek in the upper entrance as my sugar blocks are just beyond that...but have doubts the field of view will be wide enough to get a very good look at all of the top...also will need a very long extension cord!
 
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