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I've been keeping this blog for all of my beekeeping years and I am beginning my 19th year of beekeeping in April 2024. Now there are more than 1300 posts on this blog. Please use the search bar below to search the blog for other posts on a subject in which you are interested. You can also click on the "label" at the end of a post and all posts with that label will show up. At the very bottom of this page is a list of all the labels I've used.

Even if you find one post on the subject, I've posted a lot on basic beekeeping skills like installing bees, harvesting honey, inspecting the hive, etc. so be sure to search for more once you've found a topic of interest to you. And watch the useful videos and slide shows on the sidebar. All of them have captions. Please share posts of interest via Facebook, Pinterest, etc.

I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here.Master Beekeeper Enjoy with me as I learn and grow as a beekeeper.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2018

SPARK bees Make it Through the Winter Despite a Major Beekeeper Error

So all of you know that I don't use queen excluders. I like to give the queen free rein and allow her to lay wherever she'd like. In my own hives, the bees thrive with what is called an unlimited broodnest. Winter preparation for my hives at home and in the community garden this year involved taking little or no honey in order to leave enough for the bees not to starve during the winter. Also, I eliminate empty boxes to help the bees have less room to deal with in the cold.

I inherited the hives at SPARK from another beekeeper whom I had never met before the day he handed them over. He had never treated these bees (Hooray!) and they were thriving and had been for several years. I definitely wanted them to live. Gosh, what if I took over and the first thing that happened was that they died?

So I felt really scared about interfering. You'll remember the hives both had queen excluders on them when I first visited and opened the hives:

This one had a comb of honey that the bees had placed where the previous beekeeper had taken a frame of honey and had not replaced it.

Well, winter began and the hives were already compact at SPARK and I didn't need to feed the bees because both boxes had at least one full super of honey on them. So I left them for the winter........and NEVER TOOK OFF THE QUEEN EXCLUDER. (please don't tell anyone - I'm a Master Beekeeper and really should know better)

For new beekeepers: During the winter, the bees cluster around the honey. This allows them to stay warm and to have a food source that doesn't require their moving to a different box. The bees have a hard time moving if the temperature is below 50. So a well-managed hive over the winter would include removing the queen excluder to allow the cluster to gather around the honey in the super.

Truthfully, bees move honey all the time. And bees are highly motivated to survive the winter. So smart bees, and these SPARK bees must be, move honey all the time. So to keep fed and warm and to keep the queen with the cluster, the bees would have brought the honey to her. On warmer days in the fall and winter, they moved the honey to be near the cluster.

Because, lo and behold, I arrived at the rooftop garden at SPARK on a warmish day on the last week of January to find bees flying in and out of both hives....despite my bad beekeeping.

Look at all the pollen coming in! Good sign that the queen is laying and building up for spring.

You can see the queen excluder on each hive between the second and third box. WHEW. I really dodged a bullet.

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