Red Bucket Farm is an urban farm on a quarter acre property in an average residential neighborhood. We are located in Wisconsin, USDA Zone 5. We focus on chickens, bees, orchard fruit, and raised garden beds for fruits and veggies. We hope to reduce our footprint on the planet by growing some of our food, reducing our use of fossil fuels, and gardening with sustainable practices. Thanks for visiting!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fall Bee Inspection

Yesterday it was 60 degrees and sunny, so we took an opportunity to open the bee hives and peek inside. There was good news and bad news.

The good news is that the bees gathered plenty of pollen this fall. The photo above was taken on Sept. 24. You can see the huge orange pollen sacs on the bee's hind legs. It was amazing to watch the bees working diligently for most of September. We could actually smell honey as we walked past the bee yard.

During yesterday's mini-inspection, we observed that the blue hive (at right in the photo) appeared healthy and  contained perhaps a dozen combs of honey. We moved only a few top bars to consolidate their honey stores, shifting the smaller empty combs away from the main cluster of bees and honey. In the winter, the bees will stay together in one dense ball, moving very slowly as a unit to feed on their honey stores.

The green hive (at left in the photo) is struggling with mold. I had noticed moisture on the observation window several weeks ago. Since we have vents in the hive, I was hoping the bees were managing the moisture on their own. Unfortunately, there is mold on the walls of the box. We removed about three top bars with moldy comb and honey. The mold is growing in the part of the hive furthest away from the entrances. We think the combs closer to the entrances are okay. We also removed one top bar entirely and wiggled the others apart to create some space for air to circulate. At the same time, we hope that it's not too much space and that the bees won't be tempted to squeeze into the vaulted roof space and build comb.

Winter will be a difficult time for the bees and there is little we can do to help. We'll finish insulating and winterizing soon, and after that we just wait until spring. If one hive survives, we can split the bees during their peak and build the second hive again.

Meanwhile, we're looking forward to an upcoming new book by Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honeybees. There is relatively little information about the management of top bar hives, and Christy is both knowledgeable and inspirational. It's interesting to be a bee guardian and participate in the non-chemical practice of beekeeping. 

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