My bees moved into their home in my backyard in May, and for the most part, it was an uneventful summer and fall. They managed to produce about 120 pounds of honey, all of which was left inside the hive for them to eat during the winter. I even made a giant sugar block and put it on top on the frames inside the hive in case they ate all of the honey and still needed something to eat. I wrapped the hive in roofing paper to help keep the temperature a little higher inside, and I stacked pine branches and discarded Christmas trees on the sides as a wind break.
The days in November and December, for the most part, were warmer than I thought they would be, and then in January it got COLD. It’s been so cold a couple of days that when I go outside and take a breath, I can feel everything from my nostrils to my throat to my entire esophagus flash freeze. It hurts to breathe air out there. If you’re not wearing layers of clothes and gloves and a hat, you’re going to freeze your butt off. It was days like that that had me walking out to the hive to knock on the side to see if I could hear my bees. And I couldn’t. So I ordered a stethoscope because I thought that would help me hear them when I knocked on the side. And it didn’t. I have been walking to the windows on the hive side of the house just to see if I see any activity. Once or twice I’ve caught a glimpse of a bee flying out to what I’m assuming is it’s certain death. Bees can’t fly unless it’s above 40 degrees, and it’s been nowhere near 40 degrees lately. Once every couple of days, I’ll go out there and see a couple of dead bees on the hive’s front porch. That, oddly enough, makes me feel a little bit better. At least I know there are still some healthy bees inside and they’re cleaning house, tossing the dead bodies out the door so they don’t have to look at them.
On the first day of bee school over the summer, Jim the instructor asked each of the students what their goal was related to this class. What did we all want to get out of it? Some people wanted to learn how to identify diseases, some wanted to learn how to get the bees to produce more honey…I told him I wanted to learn how to take care of these bees so that they would survive. Overwintering is a big part of that. My two biggest fears are that they will starve to death or they will freeze to death. I’ve managed to partially alleviate my fear of them starving, but I have no control over the weather.