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More on Honeybees

Christmas Baking and Frost 111I finally got around to cleaning out my last dead hive last Monday. Mice had moved in so I was procrastinating getting it done. But letting it sit open in the cold and rain for a couple weeks killed the mice so at least I wasn’t dealing with live mice. I took both boxes away from the hive stands a little bit before taking them apart. I removed the top box (the middle frames were missing because Jason forgot to put them in when he caught the swarm and we decided to just leave it be.) The nest was in the middle, resting on top of the frames for the bottom box with a couple dead mice. So, with the top box off, I tipped the bottom box over on its end to remove the dead mice and nest. Then I pulled out the frames from the first box and with my hive tool scraped off the empty, smelly comb – leaving the comb that hadn’t had dead bees or mice damage. The second box had another dead mouse, I shook the hive box and the mouse dropped out. Most of the frames in that box were free of dead bees and hadn’t been touched by the mice. I didn’t have to do as much scraping. I put the frames in a trash bag and then into the freezer. I left the boxes out with covers off to air them out. (I scraped the dead bees off the bottom board too.)

Last Friday, I got the apiary set up for the next morning when I would bring home more bees. I took some equipment to the garage over night or put it away so the apiary would be cleaner and more organized. I set up the hive stands, beetle baffles and put the reducers in place. I got some frames out of the freezer too.

Composting 026Last Saturday, I went out early to finish preparing for the new bees.  I made sure inner and outer covers were there, four outer covers and only three inner covers. Then I put frames in boxes and set a box by each hive stand so the bees would have a second, deep hive body right away.

Around 8:00 am with everything ready to go, I went to pick up Jason from his house to accompany  me to get the bees. We set out from there around 8:25 am, Jason drove. Along the drive to Rushford, we talked about bees mostly. As always, my stomach was somewhat in knots from nerves but not as bad as last year, this time I knew what to expect with a nine-frame nuc.

We pulled into the bee yard around 9:11 am, other than the beekeeper and his wife we were the only ones there. There weren’t many nucs left (there was a pick up day on April 30th too). It was a very cold morning, very near freezing, with a breeze and cloud cover. (Last year had been 80 degrees and miserable so I had been praying for a cooler day this year – perhaps not quite so cold, though.) There weren’t any bees flying around, they preferred to stay in their warm boxes. I asked the beekeeper what races of bees he had left. The Russian bees were all gone, he said, what was left were carniolans and Minnesota Hygienic but he didn’t know which ones were which because most of the markings on the boxes had washed away.

Jason and I walked around the nine frame nucs, essentially a deep hive body with an already established colony with all life stages and honey present. Jason pried the cover off with his hive tool so we could take a look at five; we weren’t keen on the look of one. After picking out our four, Jason and the beekeeper lifted them up and I smoked the bottoms. Then, gently, they placed the boxes on bottom boards laid out in the van. There were a few bees flying from moving their hives but nothing near swarms of bees. Jason covered the boxes with sheets to hopefully keep the bees further contained. There were only a couple of bees on the outside of the sheet and they stayed in the back of the van. The bees were pretty quiet on the ride back, unlike last year, and after awhile I almost forgot they were there.

At the farm, Jason backed the van up into the bee yard. The beekeeper had told us to put the second hive deep on the bottom since the first was so full of honey and the bees naturally move down (except in the winter); so while Jason opened up the back of the van and pulled the sheets off, I fixed the beetle baffles that fell off the bottom boards and then put the empty boxes on the bottom boards. Jason placed the full nucs on the empty boxes. Then I pried the top covers off, replaced them with inner covers and telescoping outer covers. There were a few bees that were flying while we did this but nothing like angry swarms trying to sting us. I noticed despite the cold temperatures my Russian bees that survived the winter were flying.

Note: The beginning of this story on the farm blog, http://prairiehollow.com/blog3/2016/05/22/honeybee-update/.

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