Saturday, December 17, 2016

Settling In For An Uneasy Winter

It's the time of year where I tuck the girls in for their winter down time. That means one last inspection of each hive to make sure everything looks okay and there's enough food for the winter. Putting in bottom boards, assuring adequate ventilation by propping up the cover, and adding insulation around the top bar. I don't insulate the Langstroth hives.

During the last inspection I noticed two hives had bees that appeared to have deformed wing virus. I was surprised because I had tested for varroa and had low mite counts in all the hives. I treated both immediately. Well, as immediate as you can when your internet order hasn't shipped after a week, and the somewhat "local" shop isn't open on weekends. Fortunately October weather was warmer than usual so Mite Away Quick Strips could be used that late in the season.

Young bee with deformed wings.

Mite Away seemed to work well. A month after treatment all seemed active, had new brood taking orientation flights, and were no longer showing signs of DWV. I'll only know if was too late once I see how they fair over the winter.

Only the top bar seems light on stores so I've made a frame to feed fondant. With each building project I set out with the best of intentions. I pore over plans and evaluate materials like a fine furniture builder. By completion I'm more like a first grader gluing together popsicle sticks. This finished product is somewhere in between. It's a good fit for the hive, holds a lot of fondant, and may last several years if treated well. One of those times where if others didn't know the original plan they wouldn't know it was messed up!

The assembled frame ready for fondant.

After assembly I prepared a fondant recipe and spread it in the frame. I turned a baking sheet over, covered it with wax paper, and laid the frame on it to provide a flush surface for filling. This was my first experience making fondant for bees. My only suggestion is don't over whip. I did and it hardened fast. Nothing that a bread knife couldn't trim!

Finished frame with hardware mesh stapled in place to prevent the fondant from falling out.

I feel somewhat lost now that the cold weather is here. Time to focus on other projects in the off months. Purchase new boxes and frames during black Friday sales, plan to assemble them when the weather is too cold for any outdoor fun, and prep for Santa's deliveries that are bee related. Plus there's the chance to use my beeswax and honey to make "stuff."

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