They arrived in plenty of time for our warm spell, and I went out today to check on them in the morning, just to see if they were alive. It was really the first time I'd gone out to see them since the really cold spell, and they were busy flying, getting water from the neighbor's pond, and cleaning out the dozen or so dead bees that were inside the hive. There were dead, but it wasn't bad given just how cold it had gotten.
Then, when John came home for lunch, I went in to put the patties into the top bars. One of the local beekeepers said that he always put a sheet of bee candy onto his hives, just at the top, around Christmas time, and it's close enough for me to do it now.
When I started, my body was reacting pretty badly to them. They swelled, itched, and hardened, and non-intuitively, with greater amounts my body started to react less instead of more. Today's shots itched last night, but today they've actually been pretty good, and after my massage and some icing, they haven't bothered me at all.
The interesting thing was that after seeing significant improvement in my reactions to the venom in this time, I was far more confident and less angry and afraid about going out and working on the hive. I was actually pretty happy to get out into the sunshine, get all my gear on, get the smoker out, and go in and see how the girls were doing. They were doing fine! I was so happy to pop the lid and see all these bees at the top of the top bars. They were moving around like normal and doing their usual thing. So I smoked them down into the hive, so that I would have a clear base to put the patties on.
It felt amazing to be able to do that and not fear three days of swelling, itching, and real pain if one of the girls had gotten me. And it was really nice to see the girls reacting positively to the brewer's yeast smelling patties, and know that they would definitely have something extra to nibble on if their stores ran out. I know that they box says that if I have a two-tier setup I should be putting the patties between the boxes, but this seemed to work for the other beekeeper, and I don't think they'll mind too much. I got things closed up pretty quickly and easily and put the usual rock on the lid. There was no sign of dampness or mildew. One of the things a lot of the older keepers around here keep saying is that it isn't the cold that'll kill bees it's the condensation on the inside of the lid.
Bees breathe, and the respiration has liquid in it from the water they drink and the honey they eat, and the condensation on the inside of the hive, when it gets cold, is what can drown bees. Also, the bees don't actually heat up the hive to keep warm, they ball up together, and generate near heat that keeps the whole ball warm. The more experienced keeps seem to feel that it doesn't matter if you give the bees two or three boxes, even, it's not the space that matters, it's the amount of stores that the bees have that'll keep them alive. So adding the patties made me feel better. I'll have plenty more of them for the later winter/early spring when the flowers aren't out yet, but for now, it seems a nice bit of insurance.