CHAPTER XIII Edit
HOW TO WINTER BEES
THE wintering of bees in the northern latitudes is usually attended with more or less loss. Although we now think we know the conditions necessary for perfect wintering,, it is only now and then that they are attained. There are so many unhappy and unpredictable circumstances and vicissitudes, that one must needs be a true prophet as well as a good bee-keeper to be sure that all his swarms will successfully pass the period of snow and cold.
The problem of wintering hinges as much on protection from dampness as on protection from the cold. We all know that double windows in a room keep the frost off the panes. The reason for this is that the dampness of the room is not allowed to come in contact with the cold outside glass. So it is with the bee-hive; if it is single walled the dampness from the breath of the bees causes the frost to gather on the walls of the hive, which later melts and wets the bees so that they chill easily; the double-walled hive is a guard against this condition.
GETTING READY FOR WINTERING
First of all that watchward of the bee-keeper must be fully realised, "Keep the colonies strong." Most men of experience do not attempt to winter a colony that is not large enough to cover at least four of the Langstroth brood-frames. If a colony is as small as this, the division boards should be used to contract the hive and make it as cosy and comfortable as pos- sible. It is far safer to try to winter a colony that covers six frames than one that covers only four; the more the bees the warmer the hive, the less the loss, and also the less missed are those that die. To secure good swarms it is best to keep up the breeding throughout the summer, which can be done by feed- ing if the honey is scarce.
Next in importance to a strong colony is good honey and plenty of it sealed in the combs, so that wholesome food may help to sustain the bees during this trying period. With a four-frame colony four frames of sealed stores will be enough. A Lang- stroth brood-frame should hold about five pounds of honey if it is well filled. If the colony is larger, then more honey must, of course, be given. We never allow any of our colonies to begin winter without at least thirty pounds of sealed honey, and when a colony is very large we have given it thirty-five pounds. This may seem wasteful extrav- gance on our part, but the honey not used in the winter is of use in the spring. It is necessary that the honey be of good quality; the bee is such a neat housekeeper that she will suffer death rather than let food pass through her alimentary canal when she is dormant, and thus render unsanitary the bee-city, a devotion to municipal sanitation which is hardly found elsewhere in the annals of living beings. If honey of poor quality is fed to the bees and they hold within themselves such food, disaster is likely to ensue. In preparing the hive for winter what is known as the Hill's device, which is a series of curved pieces of wood held in place by a strip of tin, is placed above the frames to support the cushion so as to allow the bees to readily climb over them. We use a super cover in our chaff hives instead of the Hill's device.
There are three ways of wintering bees in common use. First in the chaff or double-walled hives left in the open. Second, in tenement-hives. Third, the hives are carried into cellars. The reprehensible way of leaving bees out of doors in single-walled hives with no protection during the winter is no longer practised by civilised people.
Many apiarists protect the hive by a box, several inches larger than the hive in every diameter, placed over the hive, the spaces between being packed with chaff or dried leaves. A passage-way out is always preserved so that the bees may fly out during the early warm days, and free themselves from the accumulated waste. This is a cheap way of securing the advantages of a chaff hive. Such boxes are sold by the dealers, and many good words are said for this method of wintering.
THE CHAFF HIVE
The chaff hive is probably the most perfect of all of the devices for out-of-door wintering when con- venience and the saving of work as well as success are taken into consideration. The chaff hive is a double-walled hive with wall spaces packed with chaff. It is a certain guard against extremes and sudden changes of temperature, as it remains cool in the hot and warm in the cold weather.
The chaff for packing should be fine. That from timothy hay, oats or wheat is commonly used; saw- dust and planer shavings and dried leaves closely packed are also often resorted to. The packing should be below as well as on the sides of the hive. A cushion made of burlap and filled with chaff is put above a Hill's device or super cover, as this is the most convenient method of packing the hive on top. The bees should be thoroughly established and have their stores ready as early as October 1st. It is claimed by the admirers of the chaff hive that they prevent spring dwindling by keeping the bees warm in the early spring; and also that they keep the hive cool enough so that the brood is not developed in the combs until the proper time for it.
The chaff hives are sufficiently warm to preserve bees during ordinary winters, but neither they nor any other out-door device were entirely successful during the long, protracted cold of the winter of 1903-04 when many bee-keepers in the Northern States lost 40 per cent, of their bees. It might be wise when such a winter occurs to give some tem- porary protection to the hives, like covering them with boughs of evergreen or building a close wind- break. The entrance to a chaff hive should always be contracted in winter to keep out cold and mice.
THE TENEMENT HIVE
This is a box made for holding from two to ten hives, and which we have used with perfect success. Our favourite tenement-hive was arranged for six hives in two stories. The bottom was packed well with dry leaves or chaff, and three hives were set somewhat near each other. Entrances were boxed back, affording a front hall for each hive-entrance. After three hives were thus set in and packed with chaff on every side and between, a shelf was put across and on this were set three more hives which were likewise packed. The entrances to the upper row were or. the same side as those to the lower row, and the cover of the box sloped back from the front of the hives and was hinged along its highest edge; thus when we wished to examine the hives we lifted the cover and examined the bees from the back side instead of standing directly in front of the entrance. Our losses were rare and small while using these tenements. The advantage of the tenement over the chaff hive is that it is cheaper, and that several colonies packed together help to keep each other
WINTERING IN CELLARS
The way we always wintered bees in the old days was by placing them in a cellar which was used for vegetables and was ill-ventilated and damp. We well remember that in the spring the cellar windows were covered with arrested prisoners; we do not recollect that we lost many colonies, but if we did not, it was owing to the ways of inscrutable Providence rather than our own understanding of the needs of the bees. Probably most of the bees in the Northern climates are wintered in cellars; and because they are wintered in all sorts of cellars with varying degrees of dampness the mortality among them is likely to be great. A cellar fit for wintering bees should be cemented on the floor and sides, made mouse and rat tight, and should be well drained, well ventilated and so arranged that the temperature may be kept in the neighbourhood of 45 F. In such a cellar the hives lifted off the bottom boards should be placed four or five inches apart on two scantlings laid on the floor. In the next tier the middle of a hive should bridge the opening between the lower hives on which it rests. This arrangement gives plenty of ventilation to the hive from below, and it is very important that the air be introduced below rather than above. The cellar should be kept dark, and if the weather is warm and the bees seem uneasy it should be ventilated at night by opening the windows, which, by the way, should have wire screens to keep out intruders. Some leave the bottom boards out on the summer stands, each board bearing the same number as the hive which rests upon it, and thus in the spring it is easy to find the home of each colony; but if the bees are brought into the cellar without the bottom boards on the hive they are quite likely to fly out more or less. Usually, therefore, they are brought in on the bottom boards, and these are piled in some convenient place until needed in the spring. In this case it is advisable to have a map made of the apiary, and the hives and their places numbered on the map, and thus each hive may be returned to its old stand in the spring.
If bees are wintered in the ordinary house-cellar it is far better to partition off the part used for the bees from that used for vegetables, and much pains should be taken to keep the air good and the cellar well ventilated.
Special bee-cellars are in vogue in some large apiaries. The cellar is sometimes made beneath the bee-house, and sometimes it is a structure by itself. Of all such cellars, the Bingham seems to us the cheapest, and surely quite as practical as the others. It is built like a square cistern, twelve feet square at the bottom, sixteen feet at the top and six feet deep ; it is cemented at the bottom and on the sides, and the ceiling is flush with the level of the ground. Over this is built a gable roof, the eaves extending down to a drain on either side so that all the water is carried off. The ventilation is secured through a pipe extending from the cellar ceiling to the top of the roof. The floor over the cellar is tight and covered with sawdust; access to the cellar stairs is gained through a trap door. Such a cellar as this should be built on a dry knoll. Mr. Bingham has wintered successfully ninety colonies in this house; and it will hold nearly twice as many.
The bees may come out of the hives and die in great numbers when they are wintered in a cellar. If any such seem distended and swollen they have probably died of dysentery, and the matter should be looked into immediately. However, many of the bees that die in winter are likely to be the old ones which are not vigorous enough to stand the strain of the cold. The cellar floor should be swept several times during the winter and all the dead bees re- moved so they shall not pollute the atmosphere. The cellar should always be dark, but the bees can be easily examined with a lamp, or what is better, a bull's-eye lantern.
The carrying of hives into the cellar is an onerous task when the apiary is large. The entrance to the hive should be closed the night before so as to be sure the whole family is moved. The hives should be carried with as little perturbance to the occupants as may be; several methods of carrying the hives easily and quietly have been invented. Mr. Root uses a wire bent like a V with the wooden piece of a common pail bale at the angle. The prongs of the V are bent at right angles into hooks which hook under the bottom board; two men carry the hive, one on each side, each with a carrier just described. Mr. Miller has a simple rope carrier that slips under the cleated ends of the hive. Mr. Boardman has a delightful device, which is a carrier in the shape of a push-cart with two wheels. A board just large enough to set the hive upon with rope handles at either side serves admirably.
WHEN TO PUT BEES IN THE CELLAR
This should be done as soon as steady cold weather comes on. In this northern climate the colonies should be ready in October, for the appointed time for putting them in the cellar is likely to occur between the first and fifteenth of November. If put in too soon and the weather is warm they become uneasy; they should be put in during a dry day so that the hives will not be dampened by rain or fog.
WHEN TO TAKE BEES OUT OF THE CELLAR
This is decided somewhat by the bees themselves; if they awaken and push out and try to escape in great numbers, it is a sign that they had best be put out as soon as it can be safely done. Mr. Root makes the practice of putting his bees out of the cellar in the middle of a warm day in midwinter, so that they may have a cleansing flight, and then puts them back in the cellar that night; which shows that a merciful man is good to his bees. However, some other bee-keepers think that this taking them out in midwinter is fraught with danger.
In a climate like that of New York it is hardly safe to take the hives from the cellar before the last of April or the first of May. The general rule is to wait until there is a prevalent temperature of 70, and the willow, the alder, and the soft maples are in blossom, so that the bees may gather pollen as soon as they are put out. The glowing banners of the red maple blossoms give signal to most of the bee- keepers in the northern climate that it is time that the bees were on the wing.
The cause of this is attributed to various conditions by various bee-keepers. The evidence of it is shown by the listlessness of the swarm, and by the dying of the bees. Whatever the reason, all apiarists agree it is more common during cold, backward springs, and that it is less prevalent when the bees are put out in warm, sunny locations. The only remedies sug- gested are that the brood-chambers be contracted so that the bees can easily keep the comb warm, and that plenty of good syrup and rye flour and water be given to the bees if they are unable to get food from the flowers. Many apiarists have tried the joining of two colonies when this dwindling appears, hoping thus to get enough bees in a hive to keep it warm, but they all agree that this does not help the matter.
MAXIMS FOR WINTERING
Keep the colonies strong. Be sure that a good- sized swarm has at least thirty pounds of sealed stores.
Pollen should not be left in the comb for winter use.
Photograph by M. Y. S'-' PLATE XXII. WINTER QUARTERS IN CHAFF HIVES
Photograph by Verne Morton. PLATE XXIII. PLUM BLOSSOMS The fruit-bloom is a great aid to the bees while rearing their brood.
Be sure that the honey is of good quality, and not made from decayed fruit or honey-dew.
Give the hive ventilation from below.
If wintered out of doors, give the bees a chance to fly.
If wintered in cellars, do not put too many bees in a cellar. If you have space for fifty colonies, do not try to winter more than thirty in it.
In cellars take off the bottom boards and arrange the hives so that the bees will get plenty of ventilation from below.
Have a thermometer in the cellar and keep watch of it. This should not show more than ten degrees of variation. If the temperature rises to 55, open the windows at night.
Keep the cellar dark and the air sweet.
Sweep the dead bees off the cellar floor several times during the winter.
Contract the brood-chamber in the fall, and again, if necessary, when the hives are set out in the spring, until there is only comb enough so that the bees can cover it well.
See that the bees have plenty of food and good water near by when set out in the spring.