Winter prep


_"Go Away!"  "Go on, Shoo!"  I'm swatting at an annoying girl buzzing around my head.  This is clear across the yard from the hive, I'm no where near it, yet she is persistent.  Others are hovering around as well, threatening to take up their sisters plight. No matter where I am in the yard, they are there.  They are at the back door and windows, scanning along the seams, looking for an opening.  They are in the garden, by the oven, seemingly buzzing overhead in all directions.  Wendy takes a fruitless wild snap at one as it flies by her.  We've both about had our fill of this.  The behavior is not really aggressive, but it is annoying.  They have been this way all day. Earlier in the morning, Beth and I cracked open the hive to prep things for winter.  Basically, I wanted to recenter the combs in the hive and make room for the feeder again on the end.
_What we found was a bit disheartening.  Much of the honey they had stored seemed to be gone, either having been used prematurely, or stolen by raiding bees.  I doubt the later as there are not any other hives close by.  Hence, with their stores low, the girls were a bit touchy about us disturbing them, but it was necessary.  Now, as I busy myself around the yard cleaning up for the coming winter, they seem determined not to let me forget our earlier transgression.

_That was a few weeks ago.  since then I have tried to feed them regularly.  Not an optimal situation as sugar water is an incomplete surrogate for honey, but it is the only choice I have.  I could buy some honey to use, but that would be expensive and potentially problematic with the possibility of exposing the bees to an outside disease.  I did try supplementing the syrup with a specially formulated protein powder (MegaBee), so hopefully that will help, but my expectations for survival this winter are low.  It has been bothering me, which is probably why I have put off writing this.  I feel a bit like a kid who's let his pet hamster die.  But, I can only try, I guess!

Our fall was short and winter is bearing down now.  As I write this, it is 16* F out and the forecast is for more cold and snow.  We have had a bit of the later already and I got to hone up my shoveling skills some.  My joints gave me pointed reminders why older people  migrate towards the equator later in life.  It could be a long winter ......

_I did button down the hive hatches prior to the cold, however.  I picked up some blue foam insulation board and covered the sides and roof of the hive with this.  I also wrapped the legs of the hive with a tarp to help keep the wind out.  The front entrance is still open, although I have plugged two of the three entrance holes.  The girls are still there, actively milling around the entrance when I disturb them changing out their food.  They have surprised me before with their robust survival ability.  Still, April and May seem a long way off.