Rebecca Chesney: dead bee. again and again, 2008

A Nuc Hive of Dead Bees :(

Rebecca Chesney: dead bee. again and again, 2008

I revved up the table saw and made three inner covers for my nuc hives, and I cut a round opening in each through which I can feed the bees their syrup.

But when I opened the hives to give the bees their snug, new, inner covers, I discovered one of the hives dead. A dead hive is soooo quiet. Creepy. And disheartening.

Wow. The dead hive really surprised me…this is not the time of year for a colony to completely die off. And the other nucs, all of which have the same arrangement, were doing fine. So, I presented all the living hives with their fancy new inner cover and a new jar of syrup, and they’re all still flying.

After sort of reviewing the situation to figure out what happened, I scraped the pile of dead bees into the grass. I’m leaving the comb from that hive in its box and out in the sun so wax moths don’t destroy it before winter hits us.

What happened to the Nicola hive? I’m not sure, but the comb and all the dead bees were wet. Either condensation (warm days + cold nights = condensation build up) had collected on the top cover and dripped onto the bees, or (and this is my suspicion) I didn’t let a proper vacuum seal the inverted jar of syrup I placed atop the hive, and it dripped onto the bees. And they died.

Either way, I guess I killed them. Dang.

I’ve learned to cut myself a lot of slack when it comes to making mistakes that cost either bees or honey. It’s disappointing, but I try to consider these lessons learned. And I’ve found that it’s good for me to immediately get over the situation…analyze the hive, say some sort of thank you to the bees, and scrape them out onto the ground. Then I clean up the equipment for the next colony.

 

 

Painted box #1

Updates 11/21/11

UPDATES:

  1. The guy who wanted bees removed from his reconstruction project called. The general contractor for the job found an exterminator to kill the bees. It’s done.
  2. So, for $600, the bees were killed. Now the homeowner has to go in and remove comb and whatever honey may remain after robbers (of the honeybee and yellow jacket and hornet and ant varieties) have had their fill.
  3. Too bad. It would have cost much less to hire me, and even if the bees had died, we’d still have viable comb and edible honey.
  4. The guy liked me, though, and said he could tell I know what I’m talking about. And I do.
  5. I ordered my next beekeeping hat. It’s on its UPS way to my head right now.
  6. And, noooo, I didn’t construct the inner covers for my nuc boxes yesterday. I don’t think I can do it today, either. It’ll have to wait until tomorrow.
  7. We’re planning on painting the wood floors in our Waco, KY farmhouse. When we were in New Mexico, we saw some painted floors that made me melt with happiness.
  8. I’ve been practicing the floor-painting technique on bee boxes…good idea, huh? That way, the woodenware is protected with paint, they look awesome, and we can now base our paint-color decision on the resulting boxes…which are made of pine, just as the floors in the farmhouse are pine.
  9. I’ll show you the results, and then you can paint your floors however you like. :)
  10. Below is box #1:
Painted box #1
Painted box #1 (close up)

Okay, in real life, these do NOT have a greenish cast. I think that’s coming from the overhead fluorescent lights in the basement (I can’t tell you the trouble I have spelling “fluorescent.” I don’t even know how to get started on it). Bad idea. But it’s dark out right now…maybe later in the day I’ll take this outside and take a picture for you in honest-to-goodness sunlight.

Don’t worry, Reader, we will not choose floors with a greenish cast for the farm. That would be nauseating. Plus, this color is waaay too light for a farmhouse floor. Things get dirty on a farm. For crying out loud…half the time we’re there, we wear muck boots.

Handygirl to the Rescue

I woke in the night worried about the bees in my three nucs (a “nuc” is a small hive—usually composed of 5 frames rather than 8 or 10—and is the abbreviated form for “nucleus” hive). It’s getting cold. Tonight’s temperatures will be in the 30s with highs today reaching only into the 40s. And the few bees in a nuc have trouble enough heating the hive. To make matters worse, I’ve kept an empty box on top of each nuc so I can fit a feeder jar…which translates into an entire box of dead space for the bees to heat. This is asking too much of them.

So, in the dark of the night, I decided to construct an inner cover for each nuc…one with a hole in the center through which I can still feed. In other words, I’ll construct a fitted plywood inner cover with a hole cut from the center; I’ll place that new cover directly over the 5 frames…which should keep the heat generated by the bees concentrated in the lower box; then I’ll place the feeder jar of syrup over the hole so that when the weather is warmer and the bees break cluster, they can eat from it; the empty box surrounding the feeder won’t need to be heated.

I have a rockin’ table saw and an ancient jig saw, so why on earth hadn’t I yet thought of constructing my own inner cover with a feeder hole for those nucs?! Sometimes, I am a dullard.

The Sweetest Sound

It’s March, but it’s still cold. Too cold to open the hive boxes and check on the bees. But I sort of did it anyway. I did it because on Sunday I discovered that my friend Jim lost his second hive. All dead. And then yesterday I discovered that my friend and bee mentor Chris lost all five of his hives this year. So, I braced myself for what I thought was the inevitable and lifted the lid of my Amazon girls.

I didn’t have to do much…I simply lifted the lid…and when I began to lift the inner cover, I heard them—loud buzzing. I put my ear right to the inner cover, and—sure enough—they’re still alive in there. I closed them back up as quickly as I could and practically danced my way back into the house.

On Saturday, we’re supposed to have temperatures in the 50s. Which means I’ll get to open the boxes and feed the bees. Hang on girls.