We are hardy folk, we northern beekeepers! Mr. Neil and I pose around a snow surrounded Kitty beehive. We came out to make sure that the snow wasn't blocking key ventilation areas in the beehives and to see if they were alive.
Mr. Neil and Non Birding Bill also checked to see if our electric bear-proof (and skunk-proof) fence was still in working order. Not that we need to worry about bears at this exact moment, but better to find out now if there is a problem with the solar panel now than in the spring when a bear has breached the fence and made a mess of the hives.
The Kitty bees are in a smaller hive this winter (an experiment to see if we can overwinter bees in a two hive system instead of three). This time of year, the workers and queen are all clustered together to stay warm. We opened the roof and they were right at the top. A couple even flew out at us! Mr. Neil asked, should we go inside and see what's going on, maybe we could add a frame of honey for them."
NBB quickly said, "No!"
"But do we--"
We didn't have a smoker and two of us were dressed in black--the color a bee is most likely to sting. So we didn't go much further. Her humming sounded very healthy. Here's a video I made just to pick up the sound of their buzzing in twenty degree temperatures:
Things over that the Kelli hive were just as happy:
We could hear them inside the hive. The snow had piled up over the bottom entrance and Mr. Neil shoveled the front. As soon as it was clear, a couple of bees came out--one even took out a dead be. Bless our OCD Minnesota Hygienic Bees--"Must be clean, must be clean," they chant in their little buzzy voices.
Both seem content and healthy. They still have a few months to go and we'll check them again. This reminds me that it's getting time for me to order our bees for the spring! I think we'll have a total of six hives this summer! We'll probably divide Kelli and order three new packages of bees.
On our way out to the hives NBB found some feathers scattered on the snow. Above is one of the clumps. We found them in the spot where we have seen a saw-whet owl in the past. We were trying to figure out what kind of bird the feathers came from. The coloring of this clump looked like morning dove.
But then we found these secondaries (with a little blood ), looks too small for mourning dove to me. I think this might be junco. Possible for a saw-whet to take out, but also prey for a sharp-shinned hawk which also hangs out in Mr. Neil's woods in winter. I didn't see any owl poop on the snow, but then again, find white on white is kinda hard. But a fun mystery to chew on.