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CHAPTER XXIV.

WINTERING BEES.

A HIVE made tight, without upward ventilation, condenses moisture on the sides and top, which being absorbed by the wood, makes it a conductor of heat and cold, and renders it excessively damp within, causing great loss of bees, and permanent injury to the combs. These difficulties are now overcome by attending to the condition of the combs, and by the use of the California hive in combination with the following plans of of management during the winter.

CONDITIONS SUITED TO WINTERING Edit

Combs that have been used to rear a number of generations of young, are the most suitable to receive the winter supplies of food, and for the bees to cluster on during the winter ; when first built, the comb is nearly white ; at the emerging of the first generation it becomes yellow, and grows darker and darker with each succeeding generation ; each young bee leaving a fine lining or cocoon in the cell it emerges from. This serves to insulate each cell from adjoining cells, and when full of honey, they are non-conductors; and hence the animal heat is retained.

Comb continues to improve and does not reach the best condition to insure the perfect health of the bees until it is two years old. They will continue to do well with the same combs ten years, though a partial exchange at suitable intervals of old for new increases their prosperity. New comb containing honey is to some extent a conductor of heat, and is liable to crack and sweat under the influence of frost or moisture. Feeding in this condition invariably produces dysentery, if not soon relieved by fine weather. Large swarms are always desirable for wintering as stock hives, yet if small ones are to be kept over they will live and thrive with old comb, while swarms of equal strength and the same amount of stores, with new comb, will perish.

WHERE KEPT DURING WINTER Edit

Bees have their points of compass, and can work from and to a hive as the farmer does from and to his house ; and hence, if in a suitable place, they should remain upon the same stand winter and summer. Winter repositories, such as cellars or dark rooms, have been used and recommended by some of the most eminent apiarians in the United States and Germany.

The advantages claimed for this system are that bees winter without serious loss of numbers, and with a less consumption of stores than if left on the summer stand. I have tried the plan, and have found on taking them out in the spring, that there was but little loss in numbers, and slight diminution of stores. But this supposed gain, though gratifying for the time, never proved permanent. The large numbers kept in the same room for several weeks, produces a sameness of scent in all, so that the members of one hive cannot be distinguished by those of another. This renders the strong hive liable to attract bees from the weak ones, leaving a portion of the brood to perish. It also causes the comb to become more or less moldy or rotten, and proves a permanent damage to the hive. Bees wintered out of doors, being vigorous and ever on the alert for a defenceless colony, quickly scent out those removed from the repository, and attack and rob them.

This practice probably originated foul brood, and will serve to perpetuate it ; for in the district where this system has been most practiced, this disease most abounds. In fact, I am not aware that the disease- has appeared in any other localities except when carrying bees or honey from the infected districts. As far as I can learn, the disease only exists in New York, New Jersey, and some of the New England States, whence it has been brought to California, to the great damage of many apiarists and novices in the latter State.

WINTER MANAGEMENT Edit

About the first of December, or as soon as the weather becomes cold, they should be protected from rough winds and fogs. This is best done by entirely closing the entrances in front, and opening the ventilators, and admitting air through the ventilating chamber, by which it is greatly modified and freed from moisture before reaching the bees ; light being excluded (by the same means) from entering the hive, and the sun from shining on it. The bees are kept quiet, whereby many are saved.

It is very important to retain all the animal heat within the hive, whenever the outside temperature is below blood heat. It is* also important to provide for the escape of vitiated air. These objects are best accomplished by opening the upper ventilator and removing the honey-board, putting in its place a cloth and adding old clothes, dry moss, or any substance that is an absorbent of moisture, and at the same time a non-conductor of heat. The chamber is to be partly filled, and the material left loose to allow the air to pass freely through it ; and when saturated with moisture it is to be exchanged for dry. A cloth should also be placed between the glass and the main frames to remain during the winter. Whenever the weather is sufficiently warm to enable the bees to return in safety, they should be permitted to fly out as often as once a week through November, December, and a part of January. By the middle of the latter month breeding has commenced to some extent and they should have their liberty every good day. If strict attention is paid to closing the hives whenever the weather is cold and windy, and opening them on the return of mild weather, large quantities of bees will be saved which would otherwise perish. For further directions on wintering bees, see Chapter on Monthly Management.

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