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Winter observation questions-

3336 Views 56 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  PFiji
All these posts about hives not making it this early in the winter had me biting my nails a bit. We were gone over the holidays which were abnormally warm allowing cleansing flights. When we returned I had plenty of dead bees in front of my big hive (left in photo) and a few in front of the smaller one (right in photo).

Today I made an observation based on snow melt about the location of the cluster in the hives. Just wanted to verify...where the snow is melted is where the bees are.

Rectangle Snow Window Wood Freezing


Also did my first tap test. The hive on the right started really buzzing. Was fantastic to hear. Unfortunately left hive, which went into winter much stronger was quiet and has a smaller snow melt area.

Based on the size of the snow melt...what am I looking at, three frames of bees or so?
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I wouldn't go by that, looks like the snow was blocked from falling on that spot.
Also I have snow that is melted in my front yard... no real reason for it to only be gone there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I wouldn't go by that, looks like the snow was blocked from falling on that spot.
Also I have snow that is melted in my front yard... no real reason for it to only be gone there.
For sure on the front half of the hive. Sorry I was talking about the circles melted in the snow where the snow can/does fall.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Why not pop it open for a quick look?
It's 28 degrees here for a high today. I don't need to know that bad. Or that I gain informational value to make opening the hives worthwhile. They went into winter following an Apivar treatment with decent amount of stores. Right now in my new beekeeper thinking it's a binary situation. Either the bees are alive and I don't have to order more. Or the bees are dead.

Now we get a 45-50 degree day end of February I may pop the tops for some mountaincamp insurance.
 

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Ok I understand where your at.I thought maybe they didn't have enough stores..In that case you've got to check them and see...For what it's worth I had to throw some feed on some nucs the other day it was 30 f.I ran out of sugar and the store was out so I'm gonna feed the last few nucs this afternoon.Its about 25 here also.
 

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Ahhh sorry I thought the pink box was the hive 😂
I still stand by what I said tho. If you can put your ear up against it you might hear without even tapping.
I worry about mine to so I check if it hits 40° just by lifting the lid and inner over... I usually hear the biz then. Mine are in a shed so I'm not overly worried about the wind
 

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28F sounds like the perfect temp to check. You can accurately assess cluster size and amount of stores available. Then you can determine when you need to check next. All with no bees flying. If they are in singles you can get a good assessment of stores by hefting the back of the hive without opening. In doubles I find sometimes they pass the stores and this early in winter only a big colony can get honey from below them when it gets nice and cold so you could heft but still need to check location of cluster relative to stores.
As for determining cluster based on snow melt, depends what kind of insulation you have and how close to the top the cluster is. All we know from the pic is that there is slightly less snow on one. We don't know that there was an equal amount on both and that one was not iced more than the other or had slightly more shade from a nearby shrub, let alone what is going on in the hive. I would not attempt to read the cluster based on snow melt. And in most parts of the contiguous 48 you can pop a lid any day it's not windy. I would not pull brood frames though. If the colony is so small that it can't recover from the window being open for 30 seconds it was not worth anything anyway. Like if our heating system can't catch up with warming the house everytime someone goes through the door it is worthless.
As for ordering bees, if this is your first year and you have the money, order at least one package or nuc from your local supplier as well as the wooden ware to go with it. Worst comes to worst none will die and you will have a package to give/sell. Oh no, my bad, that would be amazing! You will need the extra wooden ware for when you have the opportunity to hive a swarm anyway. Worst comes to worst all your colonies die but you will at least have some replacement bees to put on those valuable combs to protect from wax moths the coming year and make splits from if you are interested (while also using some of the equipment to make swarm traps until you need it back home again). And if one colony is already gone consider ordering two, same logic.... Good luck!
 

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All these posts about hives not making it this early in the winter had me biting my nails a bit. We were gone over the holidays which were abnormally warm allowing cleansing flights. When we returned I had plenty of dead bees in front of my big hive (left in photo) and a few in front of the smaller one (right in photo).

Today I made an observation based on snow melt about the location of the cluster in the hives. Just wanted to verify...where the snow is melted is where the bees are.

View attachment 72481

Also did my first tap test. The hive on the right started really buzzing. Was fantastic to hear. Unfortunately left hive, which went into winter much stronger was quiet and has a smaller snow melt area.

Based on the size of the snow melt...what am I looking at, three frames of bees or so?
PFiji,
hard to judge the size of the cluster by the size of the snow melt, If one is up to the lid and one is down afew inches they could be different but same cluster size.

2 things, as heat IS melting snow a piece of 2 Inch XPS or foam board , placed on the lid would slow the heat loss.
and I would do a lift test and if light consider adding a feed rim (2 to 3 inch, or empty super) put sugar bricks above the clyster, then plastic (I use 5 mill type roll from home depot) then a old towel or blanket to add some extra insulation.

if you get a good snow, consider shoveling some against the sides and back of the hives, it warmer when 5 degrees at night, with the snow.

GG
 

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It's 28 degrees here for a high today. I don't need to know that bad. Or that I gain informational value to make opening the hives worthwhile. They went into winter following an Apivar treatment with decent amount of stores. Right now in my new beekeeper thinking it's a binary situation. Either the bees are alive and I don't have to order more. Or the bees are dead.

Now we get a 45-50 degree day end of February I may pop the tops for some mountaincamp insurance.
28 degrees is not too cold for a quick check. Either to check food levels, or to add fondant or protein.

 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Interesting for me to see so many people saying to pop the lid open. Locally talking to people they all say not to pop the lid open and break the seal. If you do, wait as long as possible. Don't do it early on if you're fairly confident they still have their own stored food to work through. Seems like a 30 degree is just fine for a quick wellness check. Maybe even the perfect temp.

Dumb question. At 30 degrees I assume no need to smoke or even put on a suit?

I think I might look for my scale this afternoon. I have a built empty hive in the basement. Be interesting to slide these on the scale and see what they are actually weighing. Grey Goose's lift test has me thinking about taking it one step further.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Ahhh sorry I thought the pink box was the hive 😂
I still stand by what I said tho. If you can put your ear up against it you might hear without even tapping.
I worry about mine to so I check if it hits 40° just by lifting the lid and inner over... I usually hear the biz then. Mine are in a shed so I'm not overly worried about the wind
Pink is the deeps. I'm probably not explaining myself very well 🤣
The lids have the snow on them, you can see the vevor sticker in the one corner. I have an old sheet of OSB propped up against the side of the hives with the landing board and entrances.
 

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Interesting for me to see so many people saying to pop the lid open. Locally talking to people they all say not to pop the lid open and break the seal.
IMO, the never breaking the propolis seal thing is another myth. If you raise the inner cover to check the colony, then true, the propolis seal is broken. But, when you put the inner back on the hive , the propolis re-seals itself. I have broken the propolis seal in winter many thousands of times and have never seen an issue.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Curiosity got the best of me. Just weighed the hives.

Right or south hive has been my struggle all year. Never did much of anything. Even when I started feeding heavy was extremely slow to take it.

Wood Road surface Wall Rectangle Gas


Left or North hive did okay. Took feed heavy when presented. Was strangely quiet yesterday. When I shifted the hive onto the scale started to buzz. Definitely a decent amount of ladies alive there.

Wood Rectangle Brick Wall Paint
 

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Dumb question. At 30 degrees I assume no need to smoke or even put on a suit?
Not a dumb question at all. You can see that in my video posted above, I do use a small amount of smoke. Mostly a waste of time when it's cold, so I move the bees out of the way with my fingers. If you flick them with the back of your fingers, as I show, you won't get stung.
 

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Dumb question. At 30 degrees I assume no need to smoke or even put on a suit?
I would have the viel on, some times a bee or 2 will fly up in the face.
after you do this a few times with YOUR bees and know then leave it off if not needed.
different strains can behave different.
Have a smoker to give a small waft, I often use a swisher sweet cigar for these days where a small puff will do.
Not a dumb question

my veil and suit is hot to wear, in winter not so much so I do wear it.
if I need the dexterity, I do nitrile gloves or none.

Go slow try to have all the stuff ready and close as soon as you able.

Don't loose them due to starvation, if needed then you should check.

weight and lift test is a good idea, in time you will know at what point you need to intervene.

GG
 

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Do you have fondant on them? if not I recommend Hive Alive Fondant.
I put a pouch of fondant over the hole in the inner cover label side down.
I can then see how much the bees are taking.
This also closes up the top hole and the pouch covers the hole so i don't have bees under the top cover.
So no bees to fly at me when checking stores.
 
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