January 2014 Yard Visit
A beautiful January day:
- the temperature is just above freezing
- there’s no wind
- the sun is shining bright
- the roads are accessible
I’m curious about how the bee’s cluster is orienting around the upper entrance. And if there’s been any excessive moisture from blowing snow or condensation inside the hive.
So, it’s time for a quick yard visit.
- it’s too cold and early for much disturbance
- hives will be checked for winter damage
- one cover will be quickly pulled
The yard was in good shape. No:
- tipped over hives
- covers blown off
- evidence of skunk or raccoon depredation
- evidence of dysentery
This is my first season using upper entrances. The cover is just a migratory bottom board nailed to the top box with the entrance partially restricted. A migratory bottom board with a completely restricted entrance is nailed to the hive’s bottom. There aren’t any other vent holes or shims.
In January 2013, I think I had more skunks than bees there. Tracks were everywhere. And the place smelled so bad it was hard to breath. Not so this year.
Gently pulling off a cover I found:
- the cluster mostly centered in the top box near the entrance
- properly sized cluster
- they were healthy
- had a good color
- were active
- smelled good
- no sign of any excessive moisture on the lid or in the frame rest areas
- no mildew or mold
- no small, crispy, dry dehydrated bees indicating a lack of water
- lots of sealed honey behind the cluster in the top box
- hive weight indicates plenty of honey stores down below
This hive looked great. It’s just a quick snapshot of the top of a hive. But it’s what I hoped to see.
Still it’s early in the season for a Wyoming hive. There’s little to no brood rearing yet. And any major food crisis is still more than 2 months away when active brood rearing begins long before any forage is available. Plenty of time for some surprises.
I’m sold on them. They are now a standard part of my bee management. They make my beekeeping even easier by eliminating a dedicated cover.
With the cluster in the top box, I’ll have to learn some new tricks. But the possibility exists that a hive with an upper entrance could checker board itself making early spring management even more simple.
And it’s certainly easier to inspect a broodnest located on top of a 3 story hive than it is to inspect it in the bottom box.
Time will tell.
It will be another month or more before I return to this yard.
Although an early winter visit affords some help to disturbed hives, it’s greatest benefit is to the beekeeper. It takes a beekeeper’s thoughts from the dark and dreary winter doldrums, to hope of a bright, new season soon to come.