This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

February hive update

This is the front of one of my overwintered colonies. There are dead bees in front of the hive. The brown snow is bee poop from cleansing flights. All of this is normal. As the snow melts, the area in front of the hive will be peppered with dead bees. Consider this, the bees went into winter with 40,000 bees. About half of these bees have perished. A strong overwintered colony has about 15,000 to 20,000 bees right now. A nice looking overwintered colony of bees would be fully covering both sides of four to five frames, top to bottom on the frames.
At this writing on Feb 9th, what is going on with the bees?
 The weather for this winter so far, has not been bad at all. We haven't had any extended bitter cold with bone chilling winds.
 I have talked to several beekeepers who have been experiencing good winter survival so far. They were all running hives with Saskatraz queens.
 One beekeeper says his hives look great. The one hive he lost was due to fall robbing that depleted his winter stores and the hive starved. Other beekeepers that I have talked to have experienced small colony losses with their Saskatraz bees.
 We are now entering into the critical time of the winter. In most cases, the bees have now moved up into the top brood box. The bees have been uncapping honey in the top frames. If you did your brood box reversals last summer, there should be pollen under the capped honey. As the bees expose this pollen, this can help spur on the beginning of egg laying by the queen.
 The queen will start laying eggs very soon, if she hasn't started already. She will start laying slowly and then as time goes on, the egg laying will start to increase.  With brood in the hive, there will be a slight increase in using up honey stores and feeding on the newly discovered pollen stores. The bees will be covering the brood, keeping the temperature where the brood is at around 95 degrees F. To maintain this temperature the bees will eat more honey.
 Beekeepers get in trouble this time of year if the temperatures go subzero for usually three days or more in a row. Looking at the 10 day forecast, I do not see any multi-day subzero events. A one day of subzero is usually not a problem for the bees.
 Having ample food stores is the only problem that beekeepers are sweating right now. If your top box was very heavy going into winter, there is probably sufficient winter stores right now. If the top box was not full of honey going into winter and your bees are alive. Adding winter patties, sugar or Fondant might be a good idea. The winter patties are nice because you can have them made up and slip them onto the top bars of the top brood box. The patties can be added in 15 seconds. Be prepared, take the Telescoping top cover off, have a smoker going. try to keep the winter patties warm. Lift the moisture board, a couple puffs of smoke into the inner cover hole, lift up the inner cover using your hive tool. Slip a big patty right on top of the bee cluster. Have the edges of the patty exposed so the bees can get to the sugar goop right away. Close the colony. Make sure to wear your beesuit and gloves.
 The bee season is now underway. By the first of March, we can give the hives their first pollen patty. Syrup can also be fed if the bees need it. By late February our daily temperatures will be getting into the thirties. We should be able to go out and break the top box loose and lift it up to see how heavy it is. This can tell you what the existing food stores are, and if feeding is needed on a larger scale.  When doing spring syrup feeding, we feed as needed. Do not feed pail after pail of syrup. The bees will take it all down and plug the brood box with syrup. This will leave the queen with not much room for brood and the population of the hive will suffer.
 Time to get out the beesuit and gloves. Check them for mouse damage. Pollen patties can be purchased anytime now, for use in March. A strong overwintered hive may eat three or more pollen patties in the spring.
 I know my batteries are recharged and I am ready to keep some bees.