Feeding again

I opened the hive quickly  on Sunday to try to feed the bees and hoping to check on the hood trap.  The weather was a little bit cool.  I opened it up and found bees on one side of the top feeder chasing down hive beetles.

Chasing down SHB

The other side of the top feeder was more bothersome.  There were a ton of dead bees.  I’m not sure if they drowned?  I tried to “help” by using my hive tool to remove the dead bees and apparently someone was not fond of my unrequested assistance and retaliated by stinging me on the butt!  Lesson learned: pjs are not a good idea when working in the hive.

Drowning?

In front of the hive I found a dozen or so dead bees and a couple dead yellow jackets, so apparently the war is far from over.  I gave them about 1/2 the syrup I normally do and closed up shop.  With the weather starting to get cold, any visits from now forward will only to be to add to the top feeder.

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Feeding & the Hood Trap

Late Saturday we returned home from vacation and I made bee food.  I continued the 2:1 sugar ratio (12 cups water, 24 cups sugar) and added 4 tsp of the honeybeehealthy supplement.  On Sunday, we opened the hive up midday.  The weather wasn’t fantastic – actually pretty cold – so the bees were not too terribly happy to see us.

I had three major goals:

1 –  Move the hood trap & inspect for hive beetles – I recently realized that we had the hood trap on the non-brood       side of the hive body and we need to shift it to the opposite end of the hive

2 – Refill the top feeder

3 – Inspect the bottom super to see if it is being used at all

We were able to meet all three goals, though not quite as I had imagined.  Before opening the hive, Wayne and I discussed our plans.  Although I think this did help quite a bit, the whole process was more chaotic than I imagined.  While we were suiting up, I was shocked to watch quite a few bees going into the hive with nectar.  I’m not sure where they would be finding anything this time of year, but I took it as a good sign.

We removed the top cover and found a lovely surprise – a whole family of cockroaches has taken up residence at the top of the hive.  While I was totally grossed out by the prospect, I have to admit they are pretty smart.  It must be nice and warm up there even on the cold nights, and with the screen we installed recently over the interior whole in the top cover (installed to keep yellow jackets out), the bees can’t get to them.   Anyway, we shooed them out the best we could and I peered around for hive beetles.  I saw almost none which led us to conclude that either the cockroaches are eating them (boy, I hope so!), or its been too cold and they are hibernating or doing whatever it is that hive beetles do in between invading hives.

The inner cover seemed to be a popular location for the bees to hang out.  Quite of few of them were underneath and we had to be quite careful about setting it down.  For the second surprise of the day, we found that they were still food in the top feeder.  I’m not sure if that means the food is unnecessary, or if the yellow jackets were previously eating such a tremendous portion that they were frequently running out. Wayne carefully lifted out the feeder and placed it on the ground while we moved down.

Because of the awkward configuration of the three standard frames inside the shallow brood box, moving frames over to allow for the hood trap is much easier than it sounds.  Basically we had to take the hive apart completely.  We removed one full sized frame and hung it from the compost bin.  Wayne then lifted the remainder of the top brood box while I removed a frame from the bottom and shifted them over as quickly as possible.  At this point I could feel bees pinging off my veil.  They were not impressed at all.   Thanks goodness we had decided to properly suit up for this visit.

After I shifted over the frames in the bottom brood box and Wayne put the top brood box back, we moved the hood trap to the brood side, and we replaced the top from that we had previously removed.   I’m not even sure that the hood trap can help at this point in the year, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

This is when I imagined me taking my normal pictures for posterity, but the bees were having none of it.  Wayne was also getting agitated, which didn’t help much.  I stopped at one point and asked him to take a couple deep breaths and calm down.  I swear the bees sense that kind of agitation and usually react in kind.  We haven’t used the smoker yet, and I would honestly prefer if we didn’t.  I’m rather back out of the hive earlier than I planned then stop and smoke the bees.

So, we put the top feeder back into place and Wayne lifted the bucket of food for me to feed them.  Why or why is that that so many bees insist on hanging out in the bays where the syrup should go?  I found myself fishing out so many syrup covered bees.  I’m not even sure they survive after getting that wet.  We put the floats back and for some reason one of the floats got stuck and was sinking way below the syrup.  A bit of messing around with the (now incredibly sticky) hive tool remedied that.

After the food was in place, we put the inner cover and top cover on as quickly as possible.  We both had bees on our jackets and hands and, as a precaution, we stayed fully suited into we were well away from the hive.

So, no pictures to keep for comparison.  It was quite disappointing.  We didn’t have time to look for the queen, but based on the activity in the hive, she’s definitely still there.   Wayne was able to see the bees filing out the comb on the bottom level while I was rushing to move around the frames, so that’s good news as well.   We’ll have to watch the weather pretty closely to see if I can open up the hive one more time or if this was our last visit until next year.

Lesson Learned

Today Wayne was kind enough to fix the inner cover for me to prevent robbing.  Basically, the war between the bees and the yellow jackets has continued leaving a feeling of panicked activity all around.  I pulled off the top cover once and found yellow jackets just hanging out in the top of the hive helping themselves to syrup and generally enjoying the day.   As a solution for now, we bought bug screen and Wayne cut a piece and covered the hole in the inner cover.  This way the yellow jackets can get inside the top cover, but can’t manage to reach the syrup.  Hopefully this will deter them.

We fed the bees after opening the hive – a 2:1 sugar/water mixture and I added a new product I bought through Brushy Mountain Bee Farm called Honey B Healthy.  It’s an herbal supplement that’s supposed to encourage the bees to feed.  I’m hoping this will push them to continue storing honey so they have ample stores for the winter.   We’re heading out of town for a week, so we filled the feeder completely, added the screen inner cover, and closed the hive.

Lesson learned?  Yellow Jackets are nasty suckers and given the opportunity, they will invade and wreck havoc on a happy hive.  They must be kept out at all costs.