Julia's remaining hive at BH is weak in numbers and we are quite worried about it. She took the hive top feeder off and set it on the ground. Since there are three hives of active bees there, we covered it with a cloth to keep robbing or drowning from happening while we checked on the hive.
We wanted to pull up some frames to see if the bees are storing anything. You can see that there are few bees here in this hive. The frames in this box have some stored honey but given how much syrup has been available to them, the minimal storage in this box probably points to the low numbers of bees in the hive.
Our nights have been cool and we were loath to fool around too much with these hives, respecting the bees' winter plan for themselves, so we elected only to check the top box for stores and do nothing more. There was some storage, but not a lot and the food in the upper feeder hadn't been touched much.
I've heard from other beekeepers in the area that their bees are slowing down in taking syrup. This could be because we have a good aster flow going and it may be because the hives are getting enough stored for winter. This hive, however, is not at all ready for surviving the winter.
We filled the hive top feeder. Julia brought a solid inner cover to substitute for the ventilated cover that has been on the hive all summer. When we put it on, Julia was worried that bees might come through the hole in the inner cover and drown in the hive top feeder. Noah, in a moment of brilliance, suggested that we put the ventilated cover back on on top of the inner cover, thus closing the inner cover off to bees entering the hive that way.
When we opened my hive the bees had only taken 1/2 of the pint bottle and about half of the baggie feeder. The baggie had been on the hive for 10 days at this point and I think they should have taken it all by now. I had replaced the pint jar on Thursday because I wondered if the previous jar had clogged holes in its top.
Noah didn't know I was using bee tea (which has thyme floating in it). He looked at my baggie and said, "Something has started sprouting in there!"
I've been wondering if this hive were out of room. Unfortunately I forgot to take any more pictures. We took off the Boardman and gently lifted up the baggie so I could look at the frames in the top box. This hive has a deep and a medium. It's an 8 frame hive so really it needs to have another medium on it going into winter to have enough stores.
I had brought with me a box of drawn comb to add to this hive. I pulled up - with great difficulty both because of its weight and because of the amount of propolis these girls have generated - the second frame from the outer edge. It was full of honey. I decided to interpret this as the hive has no more room to store their syrup/nectar.
I went ahead and added the second medium since it is drawn comb and the bees can go right ahead and use it. I won't be able to check this hive again until early in the second week of November. If they haven't made use of the drawn comb at that point, then I'll take this extra box off and hope they can make it through the winter with the deep and medium 8 frame all full of honey.
Since our first hives at Blue Heron died in the flood of Sept 2009, these hives are the first possibility for having a second year hive at Blue Heron. Kevin and Peter (the owners of the third hive) have a very active, apparently thriving hive, so there's a good chance theirs will make it through. Julia's first hive died and her remaining hive is weak. I so much want this one of mine to succeed.
Maybe they'll make use of this new box to store the bee tea syrup and will have enough resources.
I know I'm keeping my fingers crossed (toes too).