I have an electronic pedometer that I keep in my pocket. Last weekend the inevitable happened: I ran it through the washing machine. I didn’t realize what I had done until it was in the final rinse cycle, and when I pulled it out it was blank and full of water. Duh.
I decided there was nothing to lose, so I took it apart. Wherever I found a screw, I took it out. An amazing number of treasures emerged—gaskets, O-rings, washers, circuit boards, separators, LCD screens. I lined up everything next to my computer where the CPU fan could dry it all out. After the first reassembly, I had one piece left, but after the second try, bingo. It worked like a champ.
So what does this have to do with beekeeping? Simply this: sometimes we are better off doing something risky than doing nothing at all.
After my last two posts, several people wrote to say they think their bees are low on food but it is too cold to open the hive. They asked me what to do.
Here’s the thing. From the outside you can’t be certain whether they are out of food or not. But if they are, you will lose the colony for sure if you don’t feed it. If they are not low on food—and you work quickly—you will probably not do too much harm. So, if you are reasonably confident they may be low, my advice is to go in and see.[column width=”1/2″ first=”yes”]The same day as the pedometer incident, I was checking my hives with a gentle knock to the brood boxes. If I listen carefully, I can tell where the colony is. In one of the hives, the colony was at the top. So I went back to the house and got a sugar cake and then I opened the hive. I was right. Just under the quilt about a zillion bees were congregated on the top bars. I slipped the sugar cake in and closed up the hive. Outside temperature: 28° F.[/column] [column width=”1/2″ last=”yes”]I need to do more in there, but at 28° I did something to hold them over until the temperature creeps up. On a warmer day, I may rearrange the frames to bring honey closer to the bees, or I may add some frames of honey I’ve kept in reserve, or I may give them more sugar cakes. The point is, if you have a risky situation you should try to do something even if the conditions are not perfect.[/column]
Having heard thousands of bee stories over the years, I think that more errors are made from not doing anything than from actually doing something. Obviously, you don’t want to be careless. You don’t want to do a complete hive inspection in freezing weather. On the other hand, if you can take a stopgap measure to help your bees along, why not?