February 15, 2011

It was suppose to be pollen patty to the rescue but it turned into Michelle being too wimpy to do what was needed. It was about 40 or so degrees today, somewhat of a heat wave for a MN winter, so I decided to open the hive. The U of M course said not to open til the first week of March but I couldn't stand not knowing exactly how many bees had survived so far. So, I put on my boots and headed out with hive tool and pollen patty in hand. 

Since this is my first winter with bees and I have a really short memory on all I learned in my beek course, I had no idea what I should do first. Should I smoke them? For some reason that seemed cruel. In the summer at least they can move away from the smoke but now they are huddled for warmth. I chose not to light the smoker. With no smoker I worried they'd be uber angry. I slowly removed the outer cover, the insulated cardbord box, and lastly the hemosote that collects moisture. There they were, huddled in and around the inner cover opening. At that point I was just so excited to see so many alive I forgot what the heck I was doing. I tried to lay the pollen patty down and then shut the outer box but the patty was too thick to allow closure. I was going to retrieve the pollen but a few bees jumped on before I could grab it. In typical Michelle fashion I freaked. They must have sensed my uncertainty because they got miffed. I had a few girls darting at my head (yes, I had my suit on), but I tried to stay focussed. I realized at that point that the pollen patty needed to be laid on the frames inside the inner cover but when I went to open it up it was sealed tightly shut with propolis. Since we aren't through winter yet and could potentially see some single digits again, I decided not to break that seal. Instead, I did what all wimpy beekeepers would do in that situation... I quickly snatched the pollen patty back and I broke off some pieces of it off and left them on top of the inner cover and then packed the hive up.

Now I sit here wondering if that was a bad thing...
Was the cold exposure too much for them?
Will they still be alive in 2 weeks?
Did leaving pieces of pollen patty make things worse?

I should have listened to Marla Spivak when she said "when in doubt, just leave them alone, they'll figure it out."

dixiebelle said...

Oh, gosh, so hard to know what to do, but I hope it all works out!

Jim Davis said...

Lol, they do get a bit testy in the cold, don't they!
And if you're a wimp, believe me, you have a lot of company. (chorus of: "We are wimps, proud and true...")
I'm sure you did no harm. I need to check mine today or tomorrow and will probably add some feed. Should be in the 50's. You might consider building a very short box, say 3 inches high, pull off the outer cover and put your candy right on the frames, the short box on top with the inner cover on top of that, then the cover. Don't worry about a little leakage that high--probably good for ventilation anyway.

Michelle said...

Thanks dixiebelle!

Do you smoke your bees in winter? I know when I crack that inner cover they are going to bee mad :( I will have to do it tomorrow since we are going to hit near 50. Time to feed them. The short box is a great idea. I have one here that I can try. Thanks for the tip.

Jim Davis said...

Hi. No, not when just doing a quick open. Like you, I'd wear the veil and usually would have a heavy enough coat on that I wouldn't be too concerned about stings. Smoking will get them probably more active throughout the cluster than I want, and probably make them want to consume more precious honey. I just try to be quick!