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Discussion Starter #1
This is my first winter with the bees - I live in eastern Ontario and have hopefully taken care of the condensation issue by keeping at least two small holes open (one top and one bottom).

One of the hives was weak as it was a late swarm, we fed it until they no longer would feed on the liquid sugar solution but I'm still worried they may need assistance. I don't think they had fully filled the top super before they stopped feeding and they still had to fight off the yellow jackets for almost another month or more.

First and most pressing question: How - and when - should I check the hive? I've read the posts on the emergency feeding ... so I think I'm good to go if they do need help.

Since the first snow a few days ago I've seen 9 dead bees in front of my middle hive but only a couple dead in the top holes of the other 2 hives (including the weak one). I think that's normal but thoughts are all welcome here...

Thanks!
 

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There is no need to check them until March, other than, perhaps, to put your ear up next to the hive to listen to them humm. Leave them bees alone.
 

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Have to agree, hopefully you haven't done anything to hurt them this fall.
Now let them do there thing, like they have been doing for millions of years before there was mankind bothering them.
Spend your time reading and learning and hopefully you will have a nice surprise next March-April.

PCM
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the replies everyone...I'll try to behave and leave them alone!! It's hard - they were so interesting last year I got used to watching them...

I'll keep making sure the holes are good and pray I got the ventilation thing right.

Thanks again for the tips!

Christine
 

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Life is a learning process. Learn to leave them alone. You can get into a colony too many times. Which can teach you something too. Education is expensive, no matter how you learn.
 

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first it is good that you are that worried about them that shows us something about you. Next i must say that you should never open a hive in the winter if the temp is under 55 F. But, (and there is usually a butt), if the temp in your area is going to bee 55-60 F in the mid to late jan or early feb you should take the telescoping top off and see where the cluster is. It could mean the difference between bees or no bees in march! If the cluster is not at the top of the frames in your top box they will make it if not you HAVE to feed them this can bee done rather easily with a gallon jar of 1:1 sugar syrup. just invert it over the hole in the middle of your inner cover and put a deep body over that (a quart may fit better) put the lid back on and leave it for a few days. check it again and refill as necessary! This will insure that you will have bees in the spring!
 

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Do not remove frames when the temp is below 55. You don't want to break the cluster.

You can get away with lifting the cover and peeking in at the hive in colder weather. I have some dry sugar on a few hives here at the house, and I lifted the top and peeked in a couple days ago to see how much they had left...and it was in the 20's. The important thing is to not disturb the cluster.
 

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Hi,
I understand the worry/curiousity thing so here in Switzerland there's a piece of equipment that bee keepers have which is really easy to use:
A stethoscope :)

You can pick up a reasonable one on ebay really cheaply and so in the heart of winter you simply approach the hive and place the bell end at a couple of places around the exterior of the hive and you should be able to hear a low buzzing noise, the strength of the buzz tells you how the colony is doing (more buzz = more bees).

So you don't need to take the roof of this way - if the hive is really quiet/silent they might still be alive but REALLY weak - in which case don't touch them until the temperature rises and make a note that they should be the first hive to be inspected.

Hope that helps,
Paul.
 
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