More Winter Thoughts

Rotten Luck

rotten corners

Rotten open corners. A death sentence for an overwintered hive in Wyoming.

The subzero weather and hurricane winds have abated. So, I checked my beeyard. It’s been months since I’ve been there. The hives are all alive. But it’s a good thing I stopped by or they might not of made it through the winter. Not all rotten luck is bad!

At the end of last summer, I culled all boxes with rotten corners and reduced my hive count. Those left had tight corners that would protect the bees from Wyoming’s winter winds. A corner, especially high on the hive and facing the prevailing wind, will doom a hive over our long winter.

But the wooden ware has deteriorated faster than I expected. Every hive has at least one corner that is open to the wind. Paint concealed those rotten corners at summer’s end.

I lost a strong hive to these same circumstances last season. It had an open corner. I thought I had patched it sufficiently to withstand the winter wind. But the corner disintegrated over the winter. And the wind killed the bees.

What to do?

I wasn’t ready for this problem. As a worst case, I was prepared to set up any hives that cows or wild game had knocked over. Or maybe retrieve a lid that had blown off. I didn’t expect any trouble.

So, I found a sharp stick. Retrieved some latex gloves from the truck. And stuffed them into the open corners. Talk about a band-aid fix. I’m afraid it’s a temporary solution as the bright colors, any flapping, and maybe even differences in odor will attract critters who will investigate them by pulling them out.

More frequent yard visits are now on the list.

‘Winter thinking’ about future equipment is now a  top priority. And a gradual transition into alternative equipment is no longer an option.

That’s All Folks

Wood

I bought most of this wooden ware in 1996 for my experimental yard. And I bought a few more in 2000 for my small cell tests. So, they’re somewhere between 10 and 14 years old. These boxes have lived a long life. But next spring is their last. I will replace all of them.

Paint

And it’s the end of painting bee equipment for me. I painted this equipment four times. Paint protected the wood somewhat. But it concealed and exacerbated the dry rot that is now threatening my bees survival.

Paint traps water generated inside the hive. To be effective, the inside of the hive should be painted to keep interior hive moisture out of the wood. But I don’t want paint inside the hive. It wouldn’t be durable. A hive tool would make short work of it. And it might introduce contamination.

As a commercial beekeeper, I’ve painted thousands of covers, boxes and bottoms. And I’ve watched most of them go through the same process. Most of it’s gone in less than seven years. A small amount of them last forever. Don’t know what the difference is. But it’s not the paint. I won’t miss painting at all.

Alternatives

Wood

I haven’t found a good alternative to wood in my climate. It’s natural and  the bees are accustomed to it. If I were in another climate and not migratory, I’d probably choose another substance.

Paint

So, what’s the alternative? I think paraffin dipping is a quick, cheap, reliable and much more durable solution. Paraffin dipping is much like deep fat frying . It involves heating a large quantity of paraffin in a large tank. Then bee equipment is submerged in the tank for 10 minutes to boil out the moisture and replace it with paraffin. It’s a great solution for someone who has lots of bee equipment and somewhere safe to fry it.

But for me, with a small amount of bee equipment and a residential backyard, traditional paraffin dipping is out of the question.

If I can’t come up with another paraffin dipping method or find a good alternative, I’ll just leave them unpainted.

Those Thoughts

It seems like much of beekeeping is like that. A beekeeper can make the best plans. Take all the right stuff. And be ready for any conceivable circumstance. Yet, when the beekeeper and the bees intersect, it’s a whole new ball game.

I often sort through my equipment during the winter. And I stack it according to anticipated spring needs. Now, I’m not a novice at this. I’ve been keeping bees in this kind of climate for decades. Yet, I always find that the items I need most, are invariable at the bottom or towards the back of the stack! 🙂

That’s how most beekeepers end up with a vast assortment of ill fitting equipment. They often are forced to take action and it’s often not on their own terms. It’s not what they had planned or would choose to do in other circumstances. But it’s the best solution at the time.

Commercial beekeepers are especially vulnerable as they often have little time or cash for less than expedient solutions.

Anyway, just bee natural.

-bW

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2 responses to “More Winter Thoughts”

  1. Rodney Lawrence says:

    Hi Dennis, bummer about your boxes, just a thought you might consider is packing some plumbers putty w/ you.
    I researched it and its mostly bentonite clay w/ some linseed oil to keep it pliable, doesn’t sound toxic and it’ll stick to most any thing. I use it to plug roof leaks and such when it’s too wet for permanent repairs.
    I do a lot of trim repairs on buildings and find the same thing w/ wood, it’s just one section of the grain that’s weak or soft and bingo there’s the rot going. Oh well, if was easy we’d get bored eh?
    CU rwl

    • -bW says:

      Hi Rodney,

      I’ve always got a can of plumbers putty somewhere! It might be decades old, but I going to put it to use.

      Today, a warm surge of air, with temps near 40 is preceding tomorrows storm with low temps near -10F.

      I’m back out to the beeyard.

      -bW

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