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What is the latest that I should open my hive and inspect them. The weather here has been in the middle 50's during the day and around 30 at night. I thought I read that you shouldnt open a hive when its cold - it isnt good for the bees or something like that.

Do most people just leave them alone and re-open the hive late winter, early spring??
 

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Open the hive to do what?
If you are looking to pull frames and take the hive apart, then the temps should be at a minimum, when bees are flying strong.

There are many ways to check and inspect a hive during winter. You can check to see if a hive is alive by listening to the sides of the hive. This will also tell you where the cluster is located, how they are set for food stores, etc. You can also see how they sound compared to other colonies, this will give you an idea of cluster size and temperature stress. Listen to the hive, and then tap on the side, and see how the sound changes. If when you tap on the side the sound does not change, the odds are they are temperature stressed and generating all of the heat they can.

If the cluster is high in the hive and you want to see exactly where they are, if there is still food above them or around them that they can get at, I have opened hives during the winter on a "warmer" sunny day. Don’t leave it open for an extended period of time. But, a short check does not seem to cause any problems.

But, I set my hives up for winter in 3 deeps or 2 deeps and a medium, with an empty box on top, then the inner cover and outer cover. I wrap the hive with black felt paper. I use the empty box for feeder jars in the late fall and again in early spring.

Yesterday, was a sunny day, high of about 29 / 30F. I still have feeders on the hives, so I checked all of the hives at my home yard. With a black felt wrap, 13 of 15 hives were up working the feeders and moving freely around the hive. I was able to put another 7 gallons of syrup on.

When I take the feeder jars out I place a sheet of newspaper on the top bars and a couple of pounds of granulated sugar on the paper. The paper does not cover the tops of all of the frames. The paper and sugar absorb moisture from the hive. Moist air can move up past the side of the paper and escape form the hive. But, if it condenses in the hive it can’t fall back on to the cluster.

I find the extra box allows me to open the tops without disturbing the cluster, especially in late winter if they have gone vertical and are up in the upper box and need to be feed.
 
G

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If it is 30 F outside, the bees might be
"clustered" inside, but more than likely
are not.

Opening the hive will NOT harm them unless
it is very very bitter or wet and near
or below freezing.

I would not open a hive on a day when
it was 10 F, but I would have no problem
about doing some "quick" work in fall
during a cold snap. I will be removing
strips from hives later this month, so
while I will wait for the warmest day
I can, I'm going to open a bunch of hives.

But I agree Mountaincamp. Unless one has
a specific goal in mind, opening a hive is
a waste of time.

Here's a trick for the strips. String.
Tie a string to each strip, leave it
dangling outside the back of the hive.
When it is time to pull the strips,
simply open up a 2-inch gap, and pull
on the stings to slide out the strips.
The cluster is thereby not exposed to
cold or damp as much as it would be if
one removed the upper hive bodies, and
you are not exposed to as much heavy
lifting.
 

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With an outside temperature of 30F, I would agree that they may or may not have been clustered if that was the temperature decreasing.
But, the overnight low was 19F and the high for the day was 29F / 30F.
They had to break cluster to feed.
Whether a strong hive without the black felt and sun would have been able to break cluster at 30F, I tend to think they would have stayed cluster, loosely, but clstered.
This is from my expirence before wrapping my hives.
I have found that I can feed later in the fall and earlier in the spring with the felt wrap.
 

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jfischer: Thats a good trick on recovering strips from a hive, but would not the string be gone after several days with the bees chewing on it? Shurely after 40 days!
Walt
 

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I use the same trick as jfischer, I however use thin wire. My past experience is that some bees with nothing better to do, will become highly motivated to chew and remove string from their hive. While I do not have a large number of hives,if I did, and assuming that not all hives would require treatment. I would consider using those little wire construction type flags so I would be able to tell at glance which ones had strips present.
 

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I just yank the strips out with big needle nose pliers.Some of them will have been glued down so hard that it takes some pulling to get em out.Just work fast as the bees will be somewhat resentful of the intrusion.
But as for opening a hive,the season for that is over here.Either the hive is going to make it to the Jan. feeding or its not. I may shake out a few more culls (and look closly to see why they were culls)but thats about it.

[This message has been edited by loggermike (edited November 12, 2004).]
 

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Today is 29F and the snow is falling. The high yesterday was in the 40's with sun. The low last night was about 23F
Checked all of the hives at the home yard to see what they were doing today.

Only 3 of 15 hives were using the internal feeders. These (3) hives also have significantly less activity at the feeders.

This is compared to the otherday's observations.


[This message has been edited by MountainCamp (edited November 12, 2004).]
 
G

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I've yet to have my bees chew through the
strings in nearly a decade, but I use
nylon kite string rather than cotton string.
(It is a good use for "used" kite string.
By fall, I am done flying kites for the
year, and new kite string is like new
sneakers - a spring ritual.)

One could use fishing line, and be 100%
certain that the line would not be
chewed. For fishing line, I'd punch a
hole in the "flap" of the strip, and
tie the fishing line with two half hitches.
 
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