The 2017 season seemed to get away from me quickly and I have fallen way behind in getting posts up. My goal for 2018 is to take less on and focus more on what I really want to be doing. This post will be about the 2017 season end and the things that I tried out.
In the middle of October the weather was still nice, but nectar sources were diminished. At the Willow Hive there were some yellow jackets going after the sugar syrup that I had been feeding the bees. They were not being aggressive with the bees, they were going straight to the syrup. Other people had suggested that yellow jackets don’t eat sugar syrup, but I now know that is not the case.
Then over at the Orchard Hive, I saw a very different scene. The yellow jackets were very aggressive with this colony. They were going after the sugar syrup, but they were also throughout the hive. I tried to get as many of them as I could out of the hive. I also made sure the bottom of the hive was tightly closed to keep them out of the gap that was there.
Don and I met up at the farm to check in on the robber bees. Don had heard that if you throw powdered sugar at the bees, you can than follow the white bees back to their hives. Don tried this with the Orchard Hive and we followed the white bees back to Don’s hive. When I went back to the Orchard Hive, the yellow jackets were eating the powdered sugar off of the front of the hive.
The sugar needed to be cleaned off the hive right away. I used my hive tool and some water and cleaned off as much of the sugar as I could. The yellow jackets were getting intense. The next step was to figure out how to reduce the entrance even more so that only one bee could get in or out of the hive at a time.
Once at home I figured out how to make a baffle to put over the entrance. I built a rectangle out of four pieces of wood, but I left a 3/8” hole so that only one bee could get through at a time. I covered it with small mesh wire. I made two of them and brought them out to the farm. Then I nailed them over the entrance holes of the hives.
Unfortunately, the Orchard Hive lost their battle with the robber bees and the yellow jackets. On the upside, I have learned a lot this season about what I should be doing to help the bees deal with robbers. Next season, I will put up their protection earlier to try to keep the robber bees and yellow jackets out as much as possible.
Some of the other changes that I am going to make are to remove the wire mesh at the bottom of the hives. It was a mistake to add them into the hives, they seem to be more problematic than good. Having the gap under the hive allowed the yellow jackets and robber bees to smell the sugar syrup in the hive. It seemed to be a bit of an invitation for the bad guys to come and cause trouble.
The Willow Hive was still going in October, but they were a small colony. When I inspected them on October 18th, they had 7 bars with capped honey and 2 more bars that had nectar on them. There was 1 bar with brood and I found the queen on that comb. They seemed to be doing very well.
The hive needed some protection from the winter elements. Above the bars, I put some insulation sheets and then wrapped some black plastic around the bottom of the hive to create some warmth underneath the hive. The plastic was not on the body of the hive, it was only attached to the bottom board. I also put the plastic down in front of the hive to try to create some extra warmth for them. Then I surrounded three sides of the hive with hay bales. I left the south facing side of the hive, the bees entrance
I was hopeful that they would make it through the winter, but when we had some warm days in February I went to check on them. There was no activity in or around the hive. There weren’t any bees flying and when I looked in the observation window there wasn’t any movement. I have not completely opened the hive, I keep telling myself that this is “just in case”. We have also had some strange weather. It had warmed up, but then it got really cold again.
There was a day in March that I was able to go and clean out the Orchard Hive. I took the entire hive apart and cleaned out as much as I could. I need to go back and remove the mesh bottom piece and put the bottom board on tightly before the new bees get here. Mother Nature has not allowed me to clean out the Willow Hive yet. That will be a project that I need to do soon, the new bees will arrive on April 16th.
The 2017 season was a rough one for me. It had gotten off to a rocky start and I was so busying with the creation of the Maynard Honeybee Meadow that I wasn’t a very good beekeeper. For 2018 I plan to be more present, not necessarily intervening just paying attention. It would be good to be proactive this year, as opposed to reactive like last year.