Sunday was warm and drizzly. Over 50 degrees. Usually this time of year a beekeeper just watches and hopes. But because the weather was so warm, we decided to open up the hive and see how the girls were doing. I made up a fondant patty for them, Joe got the smoker going, and we headed outside....
First we added shims to the back of the hive to slightly tip it forward. This encourages any moisture build-up to drip out towards the front entrance. We should have done this a few weeks ago when we wrapped it up...... but better late than never I guess. I've been gently tapping on the hive once a week or so with my head pressed against the outside to listen. The soft hum that responds has seemed strong.... but peeking in let us know how things really look.
Lots of bees greeted us! No doubt grumpy from our intrusion. We quickly placed the fondant and a small wedge of pollen under the lid and closed everything back up. The bees were flying, but slow and we smoked them heavily in hopes of keeping them in their hive as much as possible. If they get too far away it's just so cold for them to make their way back.
Bees cluster together in the winter to keep warm and stay in a ball like shape to keep the hive above 90 degrees. They are such amazing little creatures! A cluster five frames wide is a good sign and it appeared to be what was in our hive.
We noticed a lot more black bees! Our hive re-queened over the summer and we think the new queen mated with local Carniolan bees from other hives.... which is lucky for us because we've been told they winter better and are calmer. (Italians are more golden, Carniolans are more black) The hive was still heavy, so heavy it bent the tool Joe used when he added the shims. This is good! We hope they have a lot of honey inside. We actually wintered them four (hive boxes) high instead of three high to make sure they had enough. The large fondant patty is for emergency food if they should need it. (I used this recipe) Hopefully we'll get a warm day next month sometime to add more. Our bee mentor told us at this point as long as they don't starve, they should make it. Here's hoping!