Winter Where You Are
by Jim Tew
Biology of Bees
Biological system is all there: defense, reproduction, olfaction, vision, and they need to have a home, like a comb structure, which to them is surprisingly disposable. While we like to think we could use comb add in. All-natural cavities are not perfect. So, some colony mortality is going to always happen. Bees are not investing in a single unit, they’re investing in a gene pool structure so that particular brand name, or family name, survives. Mortality out in the wild is completely normal. They’ll nest outside and you can get away with this in Central and South America. I’m curious what the procedure is besides putting a box around the bees. Is it moisture? If we’re deeply concerned about winter survival, is there any difference that we put a piece of insert that’s 7 times thicker than the normal midrail that the bees use? Is it a heat barrier?
Bees don’t build hexes, they build circles. The hexes will naturally evolve.
They don’t store water, other than metabolic water that somehow is contained in the honey when they metabolize it. My bees have offended my neighbors because they’re covering her landscape pod. How could they tell they were my bees? I went down to look at my neighbors to see if they were mine and I look down to see an ugly little landscape pond with murky, moldy water were just flying back and forth to my yard. I’ve seen bees foraging for water when it’s 40 degrees. How can these bees physiologically be here? They’re drinking at least water that’s 40 degrees. So how are they warming that drop of water up, flying with it, and why have so many drowned? There’s a 40-45% suicide run. Why are they so desperate for water in September and October? It’s not blazing hot and there’s not a vast amount of brood to feed, but they’re crazy for it. Are there winter water needs that we don’t know about?
I suspect that having straight combs rather than crooked ones breaks up the air and a larger moisture distribution because the washer didn’t blow right out. This beehive wants essentially 50-60% of relative humidity for those larvae to development so that the hive can vent. We have to do this so the winter moisture can be let out and by doing that, we’re disrupting the relative humidity level in the brood nest. The only way the bees can replace it is if they can get water, but they can’t because of the cold so their only option is to eat honey. Combs are connected at the top. The ventilation of humidity depends on the cavity they’ve chosen. Our value of the trees they’re in is significantly meaningful compared to a wooden wall. These old combs and cocoons can hold about 40% of their weight in water. It’s one of the few ways that bees are able to contain moisture to put it back in the colony when they need it.
We don’t know what that bottom ecosystem did, and whether it was good or bad. We took out because it didn’t fit our management scheme. You don’t these bees building combs, living at the top, generating co2 levels that are unacceptable in the winter. By doing that, it basically narcosis the bees into a stupor, which lowers their metabolic activity low enough to let them live at 40 degrees fahrenheit. As things begin to heat up, they begin to fan again and clean the hive out. There’s a small list of evidence that varroa don’t like that high co2, oxygen deprived atmosphere. No bee trees are the same: some are solid, nicely formed, thickly insulating, holds moisture. Other trees are kind of shotty or too small.
When a bee comes out with a fallen comrade and she’s going to clean the hive and carrying her own body weight, she’ll have a steep drop and then she’ll finally get airborne under a heavy load and fly out of sight. But if you want the nest close to the ground, she comes outside, gears up, finds her body temperature, finds her fallen comrade, and crashes right into the grown, and she’s stuck. She certainly won’t be able to get airborne at that point.
If we agree that bees need these combs to orient with gravity, what happens when we go ahead and lean them upwards and throw the comb off 3 or 4 degrees? Does the larvae still stay straight or do we have to lean them up on one side? I have no idea, but we recommend that you tilt all these bottom boards and then throw the brood nest 2 or 3 degrees off axis so the water will drain out. The bees of world have never seen this configuration where we stack them up side by side.