One of the most important aspect of beekeeping is preparing for winter. Winter prep starts in September almost immediately after honey is harvested. We checked our hives for varroa mites last September. Varroa mites are parasitic mites that feed on the bees fat body. Most beekeepers treat the bees to kill the varroa mites. After we knew how many varroa mites were in the hive, we treated for mites with Apiguard.
In this picture, Bethany and I are evaluating our hives winter stores.
Bethany’s hive had a ton of stored honey. My hive had quite a bit, but not as much as Bethany.
Mom and Olivia prepared the hives at our home for winter. They treated the hives and checked their honey stores.
Here are Olivia and Mom inspecting Maylyn Sorority.
This nuc continued to become weaker and weaker over the fall.
Mom and Olivia put dry mop pads in the hive to treat for small hive beetles. Small hive beetles are little bugs that eat the pollen in the hive. If the hive is weak, small hive beetles can definitely kill the hive.
Beekeeping is a roller coaster of good, bad, and, honestly, ugly experiences. Some years are perfect! Others, not so much. Last year had a lot of learning experiences despite some of the challenges we faced.
Note: All the links throughout this post go to our blog posts on each topic.
At the beginning of 2019, we had four hives come out of winter. Last year, we expanded to a second location. We placed two hives on a distant neighbors property. The bees at the second location did well. Mom’s hive survived summer. All three hives went into winter strong.
On August 10th, we inspected all of our backyard bees. At the beginning of the inspection, we had two nucs, a full hive with one super, and a swarm trap that caught an abscond.
In this picture, Mom is inspecting her hive and I am checking the nuc of bees we combined. Mom’s hive did not fill its super with honey. We think they were not strong enough to do so because we took brood frames from the hive in early spring to help our other hives.
The nuc combined well, but was still incredibly weak.
Our swarm trap at our house caught Olivia’s hive that absconded. When a hive absconds, they leave their home because of poor conditions. After it was in the swarm trap for about a week, we put it in a nuc.
Olivia’s hive likely absconded due to the small hive beetles that were in their hive.
I only moved the frames the bees were actually on into the nuc.
We gave the nuc other drawn out comb.
We were hopeful that Mom’s hive would do well over the winter. The nucs needed to grow significantly before they had a chance of winter survival.
In July, one of our hives absconded from their home. When honey bees abscond, they have decided their old home is unsatisfactory and will go find a new one. Unfortunately when you catch an abscond it often will just abscond again.
We considered catching this abscond, but the wire on the post they choose to land on would have made it difficult.
Absconds, like swarms, are very gentle and can be touched. Mom still suited up and wore gloves to pet them.
Bethany petted the swarm with her bare hand.
I also petted the abscond. I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by.
Our five year old brother fearlessly petted the swarm. We were not surprised as he often stands less then two feet from a hive entrance to observe the bees.
Our other younger brother also petted the swarm after the littlest one did.
In this picture you can see the queen bee separating herself from the cluster of bees. Her attendant bees followed her to take care of her.
Can you spot the queen in this picture? She returned to her cluster and allowed the bees to cover her.
Below is a video we took of the abscond. Click on the image to watch it. Enjoy the random commentary.
The abscond found a home somewhere other then our equipment. We decided to let the bees decide where their new home would be because they were an abscond not a swarm.
I know you will all see July and say isn’t March. We were having problems with our blog so we got a bit behind. I am happy to announce that we got our blog working and we will be getting back into the swing of things.
Here mom is taking frames out of a nuc in our back yard.
Here is a supper frame with bur comb. You can also see honey on this frame.
Below is a frame of brood. You can see larvae and capped brood. You can also see the queen she has a worn yellow spot on her thorax.
In this picture you can see the queen standing over nectar.
This is another picture of the queen! Spoiler Alert: This Picture also won a fifth place ribbon at the Iowa State Fair!
In this picture you can see eggs (if you look really closely), larvae, and capped brood.
On this frame, you can see pollen. You can tell this frame is older because the comb is much darker then the comb above.
Here is mom looking for eggs. When looking for eggs it is best to have the sun to your back. However in this shady area that can be hard.
Below Abigail is adding a empty frame to Mom’s hive.
Abigail puts “Dassel Acres” and “2019” on this frame so we know what year the frame was put in. We Put “Dassel Acres” on in case we lend out frames or they get stolen.
It is always fun to see a queen and it is even more fun to see a queen and eggs!
Upon the State Apiarists suggestion, we euthanized my hive and one of our nucs that had EFB. We talked about why we came to this decision in our blog post Inspecting the Hives with the State Apiarist. We euthanized the hives by taping up all the entrances to that the bees could not leave their hive. After a couple of months, all the bees had died and we were able to clean up the equipment and decide what to keep and what to throw away.
Bethany and I went through the super together. The super was clean enough that we decided to freeze the frames and use them again. This did not risk passing the EFB on because EFB is a brood disease. It is not normally in the super.
Here is what the top of the deep looked like. It also smelled of EFB and dead brood.
Here is a brood frame. As you can see, it is slightly moldy. We decided to throw out the brood frames.
Here is Bethany and I looking through more of the frames. The smell was so bad you could smell it from our front porch.
Most of the dead bees had fallen onto the bottom board. Small hive beetles had invaded the hive and were eating what was left. In order to make sure the small hive beetles did not make it into our other hives, we threw the larvae away.
We then looked in the nuc. The nuc frames were also really gross. We threw the nuc frames away as well.
The nuc frames had a lot more mold then the deep frames.
There is dead brood on this frame. The nurse bees must have died before this brood emerged.
Here is the bottom of the nuc. We threw all the gunk on the bottom away.
In order to ensure that all the traces of EFB were eliminated, I scorched the boxes, bottom board, inner and outer cover, and nuc. We now can reuse all this equipment. I also scorched the hive tool we used to clean the equipment up.
Here I am scorching the inside of the deep box.
Cleaning up equipment is a very unpleasant task, but must be done. We were glad we were able to keep some of the equipment.