January Yard Visit Year 3

January 14 Wy Beeyard
The beeyard is in good shape.

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.

  • don’t disturb them, it’s too cold
  • look for winter damage
  • pull one cover

The Yard

Upper entrance.
Upper entrance.

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 i this yard. Tracks were everywhere. And the place smelled so bad it was hard to breath. Not so this year.

The Cluster

January cluster in a hive with an upper entrance.
January cluster in a hive with an upper entrance.

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 enough 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.

Upper Entrances

A few bees wave good-bye as I leave.
A few bees wave good-bye as I leave.

I’m sold on them. They are now a standard part of my bee management. They make beekeeping even easier by eliminating a dedicated cover.

With the cluster in the top box, I’ll have to learn some new tricks. But it’s possible that a hive with an upper entrance could checker board itself, making early spring management even more simple.

And it’s easier to inspect a broodnest located on top of a 3 story hive, than it is to inspect one in the bottom box.

Time will tell.


In a month or so I’ll return.

Although early winter visits affords some help for needy hives, it’s the beekeeper who benefits most.