Saturday, November 5, 2011

Snug as a Bee in a Hive

     It's a sunny 8 degrees celsius (46 fahrenheit) November 5th (11 a.m.) and the ladies (bees) are very active today. I saw a waggle dance on the front porch today and several of the girls returned with their legs covered in pollen.  Most sources will tell you that bees stop flying below 10 degrees celsius (50 fahrenheit) but our bees are tough Canadian girls, eh.  I contemplated insulating the whole hive this winter but am not decided yet on it's benefits. Insulation keeps the warmth in but also keeps the warmth out on a sunny day like today. Also, although the cold increases energy expenditure and thereby food consumption the main problem with wintering bees is not the cold but in fact cold moisture from inner cover condensation dripping on the bees.  I'll continue to monitor the research on hive insulation. I did install an insulated (3 inches of solid R 12) moisture quilt and wrapped the hive in black roofing paper to absorb the heat.

For building instructions see insulated moisture quilt post (

     We fed the girls with a hive feeder and heavy syrup (2 parts sugar to 1 part water).  Our girls are pigs and can consume a 4 liter feeder in two days but once the temperature hits about 12 degrees celsius they won't touch it.  The temperature cut off point is debatable but at some point the girls find it unpalatable.  They must evaporate the syrup to store it in the cells and at cold temperatures this is impossible.  If necessary you can feed them a solid like sugar candy or pollen.   I initially wrapped the sides of the hive shelter but soon found the bees have difficulty finding their way out.  So much for my claim of our genius honey bees.  I had read about this behavior from a beekeeper who attempted to winter his bees in a greenhouse.  Although there were obvious entrances to the greenhouse most of the bees could not find them when returning.  On a sadder note a beekeeper in Port Washington, Wisconsin is having her hive removed by an ignorant city official ( ).  Most cities have recognized beekeeping as a safe and ecologically important urban practice.   Fortunately for us Vancouver officially sanctioned beekeeping in 2005 (  Below is a 5 minute video of the girls buzzing about the hive on this fine November day.  Funny thing, my meshed mouse proof entrance reducer has a raised V.I.P. entrance to the right because dead bee bodies in the winter can block the entrance (there is still the upper entrance).  For the most part (I watched the ladies for about one hour) the guard bees behind the entrance reducer only allowed girls with pollen on their legs into the V.I.P. entrance.   Approximately 5 percent of the bees using the main entrance had pollen on their legs and 80 percent of the bees using the V.I.P. entrance had pollen on their legs. 
November 5th, 11 a.m., 8 degrees celsius (46 fahrenheit)


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