January 11, 2010

Closed the Month of January

Jerry Webb is a Master beekeeper who used to run a local beekeeping supply business. His shop was closed the month of January, but come February it was the go-to place for beginners and classes always filled fast. Now retired, he writes from many years of experience, in this article for the High Land Beekeeping Club.

Jerry Sez!
"This weekend the temperature will be high enough that the bees will be flying. Grab a cup of coffee, wade through the snow and see what is going on without opening the hive. Clear away any ice that may be blocking the hive. Look at the snow and see what kind of tracks are there (skunk, mice). Do a scientific process to determine if they have plenty of stores. Lift the back of the hive and if it's heavy, fine. If not, you will want to feed in Feb. with a top feeder (entrance feeders won't work in cold weather).

Sometimes, the bright snow tricks them into thinking it's sunny and warm out. They don't get far before their flight muscles get chilled and they fall down. If you click on the picture, you can see one that walked around for a bit before giving up the ghost. (The footprints are fox tracks.)

Look to see if they are bringing out dead ones and dumping them in front (one hundred or two is normal). Are there yellow spots in the snow? That's a good sign they are flying and defecating. Any hive that is not flying might have a problem or is dead. Do not open the hive to find out! They just might be on a different schedule than the others. If you open a hive now, you break the propolis seal. The Queens are now laying, only a small amount like the size of a silver dollar, but as the days get longer they expand their laying.

January Average Temps so far: low: 13F High: 39F
January has been too cold for undertaker bees to fly. This is a couple week's worth of housekeeping.
Your bees are doing very well during the cold weather, remember, they have been around a lot longer than humans and really have it figured out! Try not to apply human characteristics to them, but let them do their own thing without constant interruption from us."

December 12: overnight low: 8F High: 46F 
At the start of Winter, the cluster covered 5 or 6 combs. Now? The bees are snugged up so tight, it's hard to say.

December 17: overnight low: 28F High: 52F
It's a few degrees warmer in the greenhouse. When temps hit the high 50s, a few bees can break cluster to get honey, or drink water that's condensed on the window.
So that's the skinny. The cold continues to drag on, not much is going on, and there's not much to do. Keep those hives closed, people! With the exception of possibly feeding, next month will be more of the same. If we're lucky, we'll see crocuses and dandelions starting to bloom, and then things'll really get going in the hive.


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