Buzz-Kill at the Bee Hive: The importance of hive inspection

Italian hive drawn out to top bar 20 in 2013

Italian hive drawn out to top bar 21 in 2013

After inspecting our hives weekly during May and then monthly into mid-summer, we left the bees to their own bees-ness during the remainder of summer and fall. This was in part because they appeared to be doing well, in part it was also because we were so busy ourselves.

Bright orange combs, most firmly attached to the window

Bright orange combs, most firmly attached to the window

A few weeks ago a visitor who had yet to see our hives prompted us to peek through our observation windows. As the little shutter came open on the Carny hive, we found about 20 dead bees nestled against the window pane. Oh? Next I was alarmed to notice a large opening to the hive at the corner of the window and a big wide gap between the window and frame that the bees had filled with orange-red propolis.

Window pulled away from frame, with proposis glue and new entrance hole

Window pulled away from frame, with proposis glue and corner hole.  Notice  paint line from when it was flush with the frame.

The bees in the Carny hive are prone to attaching each comb to the side walls – despite the steeply angled side walls meant to prevent exactly this behaviour. (The Italians tend not to do this). We figured that the window was slowly pulled inward as the combs contracted in the cooling fall weather.  The glue holding the window to the frame eventually failed under the tension, allowing an air gap to begin forming. The bees have been working hard (poor things) to fill this gap, but the spot at the corner was probably too large to fill.

Hole plugged with foam

Hole in frame plugged with foam

I wonder how the bees are faring?  We did not harvest any honey and hope they have enough to tide them through the winter.  Time to look up what-next for Winter 1 of our top bar hives.

Comments and suggestions welcome!

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One Response to Buzz-Kill at the Bee Hive: The importance of hive inspection

  1. The number of combs (assuming they are full of honey) bodes well. Seeing dead bees is unpleasant but not unexpected in cold weather. The morticians do not bring out the dead when foragers can not fly.
    As for the gap, it is hard to tell how leaky the remaining window gap is with the shutter in place. Perhaps cover the gap with some sort of tape. We like the residue-free kind of duct tape or, less well, blue painter’s tape. You could also run strips along the outside of the shutter for a better yet removable air-seal. Many beeks use tape as a quick fix for gaps in hive exteriors due to cracks forming in the wood or joints separating or whatever.
    We have often considered applying some thin weatherstripping to our shutters but have not yet followed through.
    Best of luck!

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