That Darn Kitty Hive

I just got the current issue of WildBird Magazine in the mail and there's a photo of me at the beehives! I'm so proud, part of our award winning Kelli Hive is pictured in a birding magazine. I feel like I'm crossing some sort of border by getting bees in a birding magazine. Now sure what that border is exactly, but it's cool in my little brain. Incidentally, you can send in your own photo of yourself reading WildBird, you just need to make sure to take it someplace where you do a lot of birding. Which for me happens to be around my beehives. Check out this killer titmouse photo I got near the hives on Sunday:

Nothing like mixed nuts and brush pile to make a titmouse come in and give you his sexy side.

We went out to our two remaining beehives to prep them for winter (the lovely lady above is the Kitty namesake). We are running a couple of experiments. There are beekeepers of two camps: 1 is to insulate your hives in the winter and the other is to not insulate. In our neck of the woods where subzero is the norm in January and February, insulating your hive makes sense. However, some beekeepers feel that a strong hive can stay warm without the insulation and that the insulation gives the hive a false sense of how cold it really is outside. Foragers come out too soon and die, weakening the hive.

We decided to insulate the Kelli hive and this year, Non Birding Bill made sure the insulation was not going to come off like it did last year. He duct taped the crap out of it.

We decided to not insulate the Kitty hive and to take her down to two boxes instead of three. Mr. Neil has read that this will work in our neck of the woods and I was skeptical but he brought me around to his way of thinking. The idea is that the cluster of bees does not have to travel as far to get to the food storage. Last winter, the Kitty hive died because the cluster got stuck were there was no food and starved to death. So with lack of insulation and a small space to keep warm, she should be good to go.

Note how Mr. Neil and NBB are a good distance from the hive? We foolishly went out to the hives with no beesuits or smokers. As we checked inside the Kitty Hive (and true to her cranky nature) some bees flew out and one stung me through my winter glove. Everyone took a step back. Interestingly enough--the sting did not hurt nearly as much as my first sting. It is true, the more you get stung, the less painful the sting--although it has been rather itchy the last two days.

We were a tad worried about Kitty when we came out, her buzz was not as loud as Kelli's and when the hive was opened, I thought I heard that kind of dissonant buzz that you get when your hive has gone queenless. It may just be the winter low-key buzz. I'm not going to worry about it. Requeening just does not work out for us and I refuse to intervene on that any more.

We will check on our girls a bit in the winter. Mr. Neil suggested we go out with a spray bottle of sugar water to spray the cells if they look low on food. We are also trying to use some newspaper in the tops of the hive to absorb moisture and that will need to be replaced.

This bee season went by too fast.