Here's a true confession. A number of Thanksgivings ago, I realized I was putting myself into an ill-humor cooking and cleaning my entire day off work just so my kids could sit down, eat one roll, and declare they were full. That began a family tradition. When we didn't com have company, we had holiday dinners at Minado in Morris Plains, NJ. My DH could get his turkey, my kids loved it, and even though I'm generally not keen on buffets, even I was satisfied with the quality and cleanliness. Plus, I got to spend the best part of the day playing with my family, instead of cleaning dishes. However, there isn't a restaurant near our new house that even comes close to the glory of Minado, which is a frequent source of disappointment for my children who still have dreams and visions of that place.
So we've developed a new tradition. Each kid gets to request a dish, which I make, but my DH has taken over cooking the turkey & stuffing (which the rest of us vegetarians don't eat) and mashed potatoes (which we do eat, but his are better because he's not as shy with the butter and salt as I am). This year, the sides didn't take more than an hour tops to whip together, leaving me with an opportunity to abscond for a while and check on my bees.
In prep for winter, I had reduced my entrances to one hole, per Hemenway's recommendations. However, I've been uneasy about this because of my condensation issues last year, and because I'm not really sure that a 3/4" hole is sufficient. Without fact-checking, I believe that wild bees usually have entrances 4"-6" long. They propolize it to meet their needs, but it's still quite a gap. Lazutin says that this opening is large enough to provide oxygen, but not moisture control. In a wild colony, moisture is absorbed by debris at the bottom the hive. However, managed hives have to either have ventilation or moisture-absorbing materials added to the hive.
Last Saturday, something Mike Palmer said really struck me. He lives way the heck north in Vermont, but he doesn't reduce his hive entrances all all. He staples some screen over them to keep mice out, but that's all. A small vent hole at the top lets moisture out, but the bees get plenty of fresh air from the bottom of the hive. Since he has Langs, he's got some really wide entrances, too.
|Mike Palmer's entrances in winter.|
Image from his video Keeping Bees in Frozen North America
I've also been researching Russian blogs about horizontal hives this week. I saw quite few photos of vent bars and vented roofs. There was one site that I wish I had remembered to bookmark. It had an elaborate "chimney" system made of PVC pipe that vented to an insulated roof.
|Vent bar from http://cymbal.com.ru/ventilyatciya-ulev-zimoj|
|Vented hive body from http://cymbal.com.ru/ventilyatciya-ulev-zimoj|
These posts in conjunction with Mike's photos clinched my internal debate, so yesterday, I checked on the ventilation in the hives and made the following adjustments:
- Opened an entrance near the bottom for Hippolyte, but did nothing else for The Beests. Even in mid-40 F weather, they're mean, so they're on their own until spring.
- Opened up two entrances on Elsa to provide more airflow at the bottom of the hive.
- Austeja, which is sort of gappy anyway, overwintered successfully last year, so she just got straw in the back of the hive.
- My three nucs also got a quick check to make sure that the last bars in the hive weren't completely totally sealed. They now have 1/16"-1/8" of an inch between the last bar and the back of the hive -- not a huge gap, but enough so they aren't totally air-tight.
There are a couple of reasons I chose to use comb for a "feeder." In addition to providing emergency stores, my fingers are crossed that "sugar combs" placed directly in the hive will absorb moisture. Also, when I added sugar to the hive floor in the past, it became a sticky deathtrap of a lake as it absorbed condensation. Because cells are built at an angle to keep nectar from pouring out, they should contain sugar to the cells where it will be easy (and non-lethal) for the bees to reach.
Actually, I replaced Austeja's fondant with sugar combs as well because wherever the netting didn't touch the fondant, bees were climbing through the holes and getting stuck. So fondant came out and "sugar combs" went in.
|Sorry for the blurry photo. Not happy losing bees in the netting.|
I kept thinking back to Fedor Lazutin and Michael Bush who both say that they wait for a cold spell in mid- to late October to harvest. Temps yesterday were in the mid 40's F.-- warm enough for my comfort, but chilly enough to force the bees into a cluster. Since there isn't any brood right now, the brief interruption shouldn't have any lasting negative effects on the bees, and they were sooooo easy to deal with. Will definitely remember this when/if I harvest next year.