The temperature got up to 60+ degrees F today - a perfect day to do some bee spring chores! This is going to be a long post, because I did a lot today. Lots of pictures too - be sure to click on them to see them full size!
This morning I went over to the Sutton hives. You'll recall both hives died over the winter - one from Nosema, and the other from starvation. I needed to bring the hive parts back to my house to clean up in preparation for new bee packages which are supposed to arrive next week.
While I was loading the hives, I noticed that Hive #2 (the one started from a package last year) had a lot of honey stores in the upper brood chamber. But the (dead) cluster of bees was a little smaller than other hives I've seen. I am surprised that one died, but I suspect it had a lot to do with the number of bees going into winter. Because those hives aren't in my back yard, I think I didn't tend to them as much as the convenient ones.
I didn't take any pictures, because there was nothing exciting to see - just loading hive bodies into my pickup truck...
Then around noon I suited up and went through each of the two remaining hives in my backyard.
I started with the pink hive, which was created late last year from a nuc that I grew myself. The bees were very busy bringing in pollen in this hive. Here are a few pictures I got before I started the inspection. Lots of good action shots!
This hive went into the winter with a deep, a medium, and a shallow. The medium was from the nuc (I needed some medium frames drawn out, so I put it on the nuc, and the queen used it for brood). The shallow contained frames of not-quite-finished honey from last fall. Since there was no queen excluder on the hive over the winter, the queen could go where she wanted.
I found lots of good bees in the top (shallow) box and in the middle (medium) box. Here are some pictures, first of a shallow frame, then of a medium frame:
You can see here the good amount of bees sitting on top of the medium frames when I lifted up the shallow:
I was hoping to see the queen, and I wasn't disappointed!
You can see she still has her blue dot from last year - this was a good queen, made it through the winter!!
I couldn't get any good pictures of it, but this queen had some nice brood patterns, and I saw eggs, larvae, and capped brood. It looks like she's gearing up for a good spring!
Even though this hive made it through the winter, it didn't do so without casualties. Here's what I found on the bottom board:
Those are all dead bees (the white is the paper from the bee candy I fed over the winter - some paper stuck to the candy, and bees don't eat paper). All in all this hive looked real good - lots of space, and no sign of swarming.
As I mentioned, the queen was laying up in the two upper supers. I want those to be empty for honey. So I put the queen in the lower box (which was pretty much empty), and put a queen excluder above her. As the bees in the top boxes are born, the freed-up space will be used for honey (since the queen can't get up there to lay).
I also decided to add to each hive one of the green Drone frames to help control Varroa mites. The queen lays drones in the larger cells, and Varroa mites are attracted to drone cells. After they are sealed, you freeze the frame and it disrupts the Varroa's mating cycle.
This one didn't look as active as the pink hive. But still good activity out front.
When I opened up the top, I didn't see as many bees on the frames as the other hive:
But I saw lots of bees on a few of the frames I pulled out:
There were about 3 frames like this, but I was concerned at what I didn't see: no eggs, larvae, or brood to be found anywhere!
So I went on a queen hunt. I saw something which I wasn't sure was a queen, but I captured her and sure enough, it was a queen bee. But it wasn't the marked queen I had from last year, and it wasn't as large as normal queens. Could it be a virgin queen? I don't know how, since I didn't see any queen cell remnants (and I looked) and it's early for new queens. So I marked her (since I had her captured), and I'll keep an eye on things. When I look next week, if I don't see any eggs or the queen, I'll look into getting a new queen. Things just didn't "feel right" with that hive...
This hive had a similar looking bottom board - needed to scrape it out as well.
To finish things out, I put another pollen patty on each hive (even though they probably don't need it), and put on jars for sugar syrup feeding. Then I put an empty gray deep body shell over the jars.