Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Spring Inspection

The weather has continued to be nice and warm. I decided to do the first spring inspection today. Yesterday would have been better (warmer, less wind), but today wasn't bad - in the 60's, just a light breeze. Since this is my first year coming out of winter, I am not sure what to expect. So this blog post has a lot of pictures in it. As always, click on the picture to see a larger version.

It took me a while to gather all my beekeeping stuff together - I hadn't had to use it over the winter. I also brought up some extra frames with plastic foundation to replace any which may be damaged in the hive.

I started with the green hive. Smoked it a little, and took off the top covers. The bees were generally well behaved (it was true for both hives), and didn't cause me any problems.

Here was what was left of the emergency feeding:

I noticed that the green hive consumed much more of the emergency sugar than the brown hive.

It took me a bit to clean off the remains of the sugar - the granules of sugar got everywhere. Then I started going through the top box.

Take a look what I found on an outside frame (look closely in the upper center part of the picture):

What you see are dead bees head-first in some cells. This is an indication that there was some starvation (the poor little bees die trying to get more food out of the cells). This hive was started from a nuc back in August last year, so it is no wonder that they ran out of food (they didn't have much of the summer to collect nectar for honey). But it wasn't widespread - I probably saw only about 50 bees dead like this.

But good news this year - they had collected a good amount of pollen and honey already:

I also saw frames which had lots of bees on them, and lots of open and capped brood:

I even saw her majesty, The Queen (look for the green dot, meaning she was born in 2009):

This winter was my first winter dealing with the Mountain Camp method of emergency feeding - using granulated sugar. It will also be my last. Look at the mess I found on the screened bottom board!

Most of the sugar had fallen down through the frames of the hive, and made a big clumpy mess on the bottom board. The clump even extended up and got sugar on some of the center frames. Under that lump of sugar were lots of dead bees and trash. I had to scrape quite a bit to get it off of the bottom board. Next year I am definitely making up some bee candy, or make a bee candy board!

I finished the inspection, replaced a couple of frames that weren't drawn out, but looked like they had the beeswax stripped off of them.

Moving on to the brown hive now: opening up the top, I didn't find as much of the sugar consumed, as compared to the green hive:

(the brown thing is a pollen patty I put in over the winter) After scraping off the sugar, I started digging into the hive. I found out why a lot of the sugar wasn't consumed: the bees had plenty of honey and pollen to last over the winter!

There were about 4 frames which were heavy with honey. This frame had capped honey, probably from last year; then a patch of pollen; then some open cells with nectar, probably from this year:

I didn't see the queen in this hive (this queen is not marked, so she is a lot harder to find). But I did see some new eggs laid (look closely at the next picture, in the middle of the black cells):

Seeing eggs is just as good as seeing the queen!

Neither of the hives had any brood in the lower box - it was all up top. So I was able to swap the upper and lower hive bodies of both hives, to give the queen lots of room to expand. One of the problems last year with the brown hive was that the bees had built out the comb past the edge of the frame. I found those frames (now empty), and was able to scrape the comb off a little to reduce the height. Hopefully the bees will just fix the comb and use it.

Then I closed up the hives, and put on a couple of jars of medicated 1:1 syrup to encourage them to build comb and make babies.

One of the frames damaged last year in the brown hive was full of honey. So I put it in the upper chamber to let the bees reclaim it:

So things are set for a while. I'll probably do another inspection in a couple of weeks (I'll check the feed level and refill the jars as needed).

One thing I noticed was that I still had quite a few frames with no comb on them. These are the frames with black plastic foundation, coated with beeswax. I suspect the bees had removed the wax, and they really don't want to build on bare plastic. I think I'll probably have to buy some bees wax and recoat the foundation to get the bees to draw it out. My goal this year is to get all frames drawn out, as well as get some honey!

Here's how things look now:

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