On June 3, 2013, we became beekeepers. We received a swarm call, suited up, and with the help of a couple of experts, we slowly removed the most beautiful swarm of honey bees hanging precariously from a tree branch in a sweet homeowner's back yard. Safely sealed in a swarm bucket, we brought the bees home and shook them into a lovely English Garden hive. They made themselves right at home!
|Our first hive, one week after capturing the swarm|
But it was always out there. In the distance. But closer with each passing day.
Winter and its dangers were coming. Harsh winter storms are now bearing down on the states above us and the next couple of days hold bitterly (for us) cold temperatures and strong winds. Honey bees remain active throughout winter, despite the cold. We confirmed that our bees had plenty of stored honey for food. Now we had to do what we could to protect them from this drastic weather change.
Again, we are beginners. And again, I am a first-time-bee-mama. Please don't judge.
We gathered some leftover roofing paper and styrofoam sheets from the shed and set to work. Each hive body was wrapped in the heavy paper and squares of insulating styrofoam, which were tied with simple garden string. The entrances were left open and entrance reducers were in place in their smallest configuration.
The bees work hard to keep the temperature inside the hives warm and even, optimally just above 90 degrees. Too cold and bees won't survive. But another danger is moisture from condensation forming inside the hives. We have screened bottom boards or screened vents in each of our hives to allow moisture to escape. As soon as the temperatures rise again (which in our area means a day or two from now!) we will remove these “bee blankets” from the exterior of the hives. Hopefully our efforts will give the bees a little better chance at surviving the winter.
But then comes Spring which means swarming, new Queens, mating flights, more hive beetles, hive splits, honey harvesting...