Submitted by Keefer Hagan
I learned a lot about winterizing beehives this fall. There are a lot of steps needed to prepare a hive for winter. One of these steps is checking to see how much honey a hive has so you know if you need to feed them to prepare them for winter and if you need to feed them through the winter. Once it starts to get colder, you have to up the sugar content in the water. This turns the sugar water into more of a syrup type concoction. This is done to increase the amount of food the bees take in and reduce the amount of moisture in the hive. The moisture is bad for the hive because that can cause a severe drop in temperature in the hive, which can cause the bees in that hive to die off. Another precaution to keep the hive dry on the inside is to install homasote boards to absorb the moisture in the hive. The homasote board is placed directly under the top cover to draw the moisture up and into the homasote board.
Another step is to wrap the hive in a dark colored fabric or covering to keep the hive warm. These work by heating up because of their dark color, then they transfer the heat over to the hive. They also help to keep the snow off the hive.
The next step in winterizing a hive is to make sure a hive has plenty of young bees that can survive the winter. This is a necessary step because if the hive does not have enough bees to support it, it will surely die. Also bee production stops during the winter so young bees at the beginning of winter is necessary to have a sufficient number of bees bees to survive the winter. If you do not have enough bees, then you can combine to hives that have few bees or take brood out of a strong hive and put it into the weak hive.
All of these steps are necessary to ensure that the hive survives the winter. I would like to thank everyone who allowed me to participate in this learning experience.
Submitted by Keefer in Q4
Something strange happened to my bees recently. One day out of the blue, the queen disappeared. Prior to that, she had been laying only drone eggs. This meant that she probably ran out of sperm or didn’t get enough of it on her mating flight, and when she lays unfertilized eggs, they are drones. This is probably the reason he disappeared in the first place. The worker bees saw this and started to make several ‘emergency’ queen cells to avoid the destruction of their hive but every single queen cell was destroyed.
We searched the hive high and low to try and find her. This compiled to our problem of having an exponential amount of drones and a constant decrease in worker bees. Luckily, Ginger had recently been grafting queens so we tried to re-queen the hive by putting in one of her queen cells. When we came back in about a weeks’ time, the queen cell was completely gone. We again turned the hive inside and out to find a queen, whether the queen would be the old one or the new one. We found neither.
We thought it possible that the new virgin queen might be out mating or we were overlooking her because a virgin bee is about the size of a normal worker bee. Just in case there was no queen at all, we put a weak mated queen from another hive in a wire queen cage inside the hive to discourage the remaining workers from laying eggs. Thankfully this tactic worked, I now wouldn’t have to dump the hive onto the ground to eliminate a laying worker situation.
We checked on the hive periodically to find any signs of the queen from the queen cell. To no avail, we did not find her. The bees seemed to like the queen in the cage though. They did not try to ball the cage or bite her from the outside.
Next we tried releasing the feeble queen in the bottom hive body along with another queen cell and all the frames of bees in the hive. In the top hive body, we added a mated queen and her bees. Now we had 3 choices to get a good viable queen. We put a double screen board in-between the two hive bodies to separate the two hives. The double screen board has two screens to keep bees from each hive body from entering the other while providing separate entrances to both hives. This stops any bees from getting past while also allowing the scent from the two queens to mix so the bees won’t kill the remaining queen when you take the other one out.
When it came time to choose a queen to stay, we had another surprise. When we checked the one in the bottom, we discovered that the feeble queen was gone. In her place, there was the queen from the cell. This queen was laying eggs left and right. So far, she seems to be an excellent queen and the bees told us which one was the best.
I learned a lot about bees and how to solve their problems recently. Ginger had me do research to find answers on how to solve the drone laying queen and save my hive. We were able to discuss possible solutions. I think that because these problems presented themselves in this manner, I am a better beekeeper. This certain experience with bees has taught me that no matter how bad something looks, it can always get worse.
Submitted by Keefer in Q3
First, I would like to thank the Bridwell family and the IBA for allowing me to participate in this program.
I received my bees for the Brent Bridwell project on 5/23/13 and we installed them in the hive on 5/24/13. My mentor (Ginger Davidson, who taught me before I got this grant) said that they were a very strong hive. She said that they were a strong hive due to the fact that there was a pile of pollen in front of the hive that had fallen off of the bees when they entered the hive. They have already started to make honey and capped brood. They show many signs that they will be a strong hive.
I have learned so much about bees in these last couple weeks just from experience. For example, in one of Gingers hives we found that there were multiple eggs in several cells. There was no queen and no queen cells in that hive either. Ginger said that this means that a worker bee is laying eggs in place of the queen. This meant that the other worker bees saw the worker that was laying the eggs as a queen and they would not make another queen to replace her. We checked this hive about a week later only to discover that the number of bees there had drastically fallen. I asked ginger if there was any way to stop the worker from laying eggs. She said there was no way to fix this problem once it had begun.