September 21, 2014

The Backyard Beekeeper in Winter 2009-2010

by Rick Cooper, Master Beekeeper

Rick Cooper, Master Beekeper of Bowdoinham, ME

Rick Cooper, Master Beekeper of Bowdoinham, ME

Many of us look at the winter months as a time to take off from beekeeping. The rest look at the winter as a time to complete all the things we did not do during those busy summer months.

How many of you sharpened your hive tool or cleaned out that smelly old smoker? The even more important question: How many of you have an item that should be repaired before spring, but put it away thinking, “I’ll get to it”?

This is a good time of year to check your veil for holes. Did a bee get in your veil last season? How? Those gloves that are covered with propolis could use a good cleaning, I bet. What item was it you wanted at the bee hive every time you visited last season, but never seemed to have? All of these things are wintertime things to work on.

How about one of those bucket organizers as a way of keeping all your beekeeping stuff in one place? Good Christmas gift perhaps. I know Cabella’s sells a nice swivel
seat that fits a bucket and it will save you that back-bent-over pain we all seem to get when we work hives standing.

Now I am not here to sell you something, but to just pass on some of the tips I have learned over the years. Smokers do work better when clean. Open and dump the contents out and scrape the sides and cover as best you can. Remove the screen from the bottom and scrape it down as best you can. Reassemble and place a drop of oil on the hinge. Check the bellows area to see that all the staples or nails are tightly in place. Scrub the propolis off the back with an SOS pad and you are ready for spring smoke. Hive tools should be sharpened on the hooked end. A light filing or grinding should see you through next season. Do not sharpen it so sharp you cut yourself when using it. Gloves probably cannot be patched, but if they look okay, a good scrubbing won’t hurt them. A solvent that will remove propolis is likely to make the gloves deteriorate. Do the best you can. Plastic helmets can be cleaned
with soap and water, and fiber helmets can be washed-down with a damp rag. The fiber helmets can also be sprayed with a clear waterproofing finish to help them stand up better.
Here is the one sales pitch I will give you: Bottom boards take a tremendous beat- ing from both the weather and the bees. To make your bottom boards last longer, it is necessary to dry them out from time to time. It might pay you to purchase a second bottom board and get it painted this winter so that you can replace the one on your hive now. Allow the wet bottom to dry, scrape it down and repaint it. With one additional bottom you can move a dry one to each of your hives over the summer.
Now the rest of your time should be spent enjoying the season with your families and reading what you can find on bees the world over. Maine has wonderful programs for getting beekeepers started, but we are still trying to figure out what to do for inter- mediate beekeepers, so we and you rely on the journals. American Bee Journal and Bee Culture magazine. Hummm another good Christmas present would be a subscription to either journal.
I’ll be in the shop most of the winter if you have a question or two. Please feel free to drop by or give me a call. My Bee School 2010 is listed below.

2010 Beekeeping Classes
Saturdays, 9am – 3pm Class 1: Feb 20, Mar 6, Mar 20, 2010 Class 2: Feb 27, Mar 13, Mar 27, 2010 (Both classes will meet Apr 17, 2010 for package bee delivery and will run from 9am until we are finished with the installation of bees in the hives).

BEES-N-ME in Bowdoinham
FMI: Rick Cooper, rick@bees-n-me.com or 666-5643 or bees-n-me.com/beekeeping-course

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