Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Preparing for Winter

     We had a hive inspection on the weekend to remove the last honey frames, check for winter food supply, sugar dust for mites and begin feeding.  We were happily surprised to extract a few more jars of honey.  To no surprise everyone on our Bee Team claims we have the best tasting honey in the world (we're just a little biased).    We're very proud of our girls and also over protective.  It's because of this that we are feeding the ladies when they probably don't need it; sugar dusting when our mite count is low and  building a shelter to ward off the winter weather.     
Rebecca installing the mite board
The Varroa mite is found mostly in the brood cells during the year (this is where they reproduce) but as there is little to no brood now the existing mites will be on the adult bees.  Sugar dusting makes it difficult for the mites to cling to the bees and increases the grooming by the ladies to remove the sugar dust thereby removing the mites.  Tests show that the majority of mites removed on a single brood super will fall within one hour of sugar dusting and three hours for two brood supers.  The sugar will be completely removed within 24 hours. We cleaned and replaced our homemade mite testing board for a final mite count.  One observation I found interesting was that when I first applied a queen excluder the ladies immediately began filling the holes of the excluder with propolis.  Within 2 weeks 70% of the excluder was plugged and very few of the bees went through the excluder.  I replaced it with another excluder (same type) and the second time there was far less propolis on the excluder and far greater movement of the bees through it.   I concluded that the first time was the first excluder the girls had ever seen and there natural reaction is to fill every hole.  The second time they excepted it and moved readily into the honey supers.

Anna removing the last of the honey frames

Anna checking the brood supers

    At Cottonwood Community Garden, where we keep our bees we have a group of gardeners who care for the bees.  At each inspection a different Bee Team member manages the hive inspection with our goal being to make each member of the Bee Team a confident beekeeper.  Anna led her first hive inspection and did a great job.  She handled the bees in a relaxed and confident manner.  The bee colony requires approximately 60 lbs of honey to winter which would be about 10 full frames.  We discovered that we have at least 15 full frames of honey and bee bread (mixture of pollen and honey).  Rebecca, although unable to master the creation of the inverted pickle jar feeder began feeding the bees in a regular frame feeder (the fall feeding is a 2 to 1 sugar to water mixture).  Sam discovered the true stinging power of our girls (ouch) and Dan (not our queen) handled the photography.  This week we will apply the mouse proof entrance reducer and combined moisture quilt/insulated hive cover.

Look out Sam!


P.S. The mite count was 25 after the sugar dusting.  This was between 2 and 3 times greater than any previous count (without sugar dusting).  This supports the positive effects of sugar dusting at removing mites. 





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