It was 70 degrees Fahrenheit in northern Virginia today the Saturday before Christmas 2013. It is supposed to be 70 and rainy all day tomorrow through Monday and the bees were out and active and I was too as a good check inside the hive revealed their shallow stores for the remaining winter. They had already plowed through the frame of fondant I put in the hive on November 2nd and they were munching well on the sugar patty I left in the hive on the same day. I knew I couldn’t trust the view I had with video camera two weeks prior especially since it was warm and on the verge of being hot for December.
The bees were all busy in front of the hive on this fine day and I fretted for sure that their stores were low. I didn’t want to risk getting stalled by rain tomorrow so I did what I enjoy most on Saturdays and that is to open up the hive for an inspection. So I prepared the last quart of honey from Colony A harvested last winter and still just as delicious as the day it was bottled. Then I made another slurry of sugar mixed with a little water, Honey B Healthy, wintergreen and tea tree oil and put that in a shallow bowl to be placed in the hive under the last combs on left and west side.
It’s important to note that safety is of the essence especially this time of year because it’s winter and because opening the hive and messing with the stores on such a warm day could have dire consequences for the unprepared. I’m referring to the use of a smoker. Outside of ensuring the integrity of my bee suit and veil it’s foolish to think that smoke is harmful to the bees and jeopardize personal safety for trying to be more careful with nature. That’s not what’s going on here. I am only adding what nature is not able to provide at this time and the chances of being mistaken for a honey robber are high. So I use smoke but I use it sparingly and correctly as I mostly have and find it most helpful for moving around in a hive quickly without sending many bees to a stinging death.
So I puffed some some around the entrance and under the roof. Then I propped it open and started to check on things from west moving east. All that was revealed was great in terms of no pests present and there were stores of honey left but surely not enough to get through the rest of the winter. This validated my entry into hive and I removed the bar that held the fondant previously as well as another bar that had nothing useful on it. the sugar slurry went into the hive and I slid the follower board up to the end and placed the bottle feeder on the bottom with the quart of honey in place. I also left the previous sugar patty in place and then proceeded to look around the hive.
The colony seems to be doing well with plenty of combs of honey left and the brood nest does seem to be mostly clustered still at the right and east side of the hive. I am glad for the chance to have gone in to the hive and double check the stores because they were not in great shape. Maybe now they are and I’ll leave them alone for at least another month or so.