I was reminded by a co-worker that I have been a little lax in updating my blog. Part of that is due to the fact that I have been busy on the weekends and haven't had a chance to inspect the hives.
I took today off as a combination wedding anniversary celebration and first-day-of-school celebration, and had some time in the afternoon to take a look in the backyard hives. The last inspection was on 8-13, but in the meantime I have been watching how the hives are looking from the outside.
We had a rash of rain last week, about 3-4 days of it. The bees couldn't come out at all. But as soon as the rain stopped, the bees were making up for lost time! I've noticed the strongest hive looks to be the pink one. The brown hive is 2nd, and the green hive looks the weakest.
It was about 90 degrees when I did the inspection, so when I was done I was a dripping ball of sweat! But that was the best time to do the inspection, with a lot of bees out foraging.
The white nuc continues to have a lot of activity. Here are pictures of the top and bottom boxes of the nuc. You can see the (empty) yellow feeder in the top box:
I've usually had good luck finding the queen in this nuc, and today was no exception. She was on the first frame I pulled out:
This is a George O'Neal queen, and she has some Carniolan genes which give her the black coloring.
This hive had some OK stores, some nectar and good brood patterns, but I know I'll need to feed to get it ready for winter.
OK, now for the one which concerns me the most. I opened up the hive, and under the top cover I didn't see as many bees as I would have liked / expected:
I started pulling frames for inspection, and I didn't like what I saw. Every frame was completely empty of brood - nothing. Everything had hatched, and obviously there was no queen in this hive. I saw a lot of open swarm cells - so the hive tried to make queens in the past, but no go. There wasn't even very much in the way of nectar and pollen - all that the bees were bringing in was used to feed the current bees.
What we have here is a doomed hive - no queen, and fall fast approaching. If it were earlier in the spring, I'd simply move over a frame of eggs from another hive and let the bees make a new queen. But it's way too late in the season for that. Besides the delay in adding to the population, by the time the queen is hatched, it will be too late to find any drones for mating.
I've heard Ken Warchol preach about combining weak hives for the winter, so now I get to put that into practice. Hmmn... which hive to combine it with.... Hey, there's a nice strong white nuc sitting here!! So I decided to do a "newspaper combine" with the white nuc.
The first step is reducing the brood chamber(s) down to a manageable size. This hive has a medium honey super on it (totally empty too), and 2 deeps. Luckily due to the queenlessness, I could remove the honey super and 10 empty frames. I shook off the bees all into a single deep (they all fit - that shows you how much they were hurting for population).
After the hive was reduced to a single box, I laid a single sheet of newspaper on top:
I used my hive tool to make some slits in the paper, and then I put an empty deep super on top. I then proceeded to transfer the frames of the White Nuc over to the new super. Let me tell you, those bees were very confused. While I was making the combine, the nuc's foragers were returning to ... nothing! They were very disoriented and were buzzing around like crazy. I decided to leave the empty nuc in the original place, and then tonight I'll go out and dump any bees I find in there into the new hive.
The ending configuration was: bottom deep with queenless bees; newspaper divider; top deep with queenright hives. The purpose of the newspaper is to give the bees time to become acclimatized to each other, during the time it takes the bees to chew through the newspaper and removed it. I also put a fern in front of the hive entrance to cause the bees to notice that things are changed, and the bees from the nuc will re-orient to the new hive. So now I have a new hive with a jump start in population (basically doubled the number of bees in that hive) with a good functioning queen.
I think for the next few days I'll have some confused bees coming back to the old location, but since the old location is about 6 feet from the new one, maybe they will figure it out.
As expected, the Pink hive is doing really well. I put on a super last time hoping to get something from any goldenrod flow, but it is completely empty.
I didn't see the queen, but saw lots of brood and young larvae:
You can see a good pattern in the 2nd picture above, and in the 3rd picture if you zoom in you can see larvae.
I didn't go too deep in this hive, since it is doing well.
The Brown Hive was inspected next, and I saw a good number of bees in the top box:
But I was a little dismayed at what I found on the very first frame I pulled:
It's a little hard to see in the picture, with the sun coming through leaves behind me, so I circled my concerns. What I circled were a bunch of queen supersedure cells or emergency queen cells, all with larvae in them. They aren't as large as some I have seen in other hives, but the same concerns with letting the green hive raise their own queen also hold for letting this hive supersede the queen: no drones for mating. I didn't want to indiscriminately wipe out the cells, in case the hive really was queen less. So I laid this frame aside and went looking for the queen.
I didn't have to go but 2 more frames before I found her:
This is another dark George O'Neal queen. For some reason, her blue dot has worn off a little. But you can see here in the picture above.
In addition to the queen, I saw lots of brood in all stages of development. So I decided I didn't want another queen possibly superseding this one, so I ... "took care of" the supersedure cells on the first frame.
With that, I buttoned up the hive for another time.
So what do I have to look forward to next? I think given the fact that I haven't seen them bringing in anything from goldenrod, I should stop dreaming and start preparing for winter. I'll start feeding a 1:1 concentration of sugar syrup to keep the queen producing, and then later switch to 2:1 to get the bees to start packing it away for the winter. I've got some pollen patties from last year I'll feed them too.
I was at a large blue box hardware store, and found in the paint department some 5 quart buckets with lids. I wanted something larger than the quart canning jars I was using, so I don't have to add feed too often. So I'll prepare those as feeding pails, and mix up some sugar to feed them.
I still have to check the Sutton hives - I may get some more honey from them yet. We'll see.