Sunday, April 8, 2012

Inspection 04-07-2012: First of the Season

I so believe weather forecasters are the biggest teases around. They'll predict a high of around 56 or so, and then when the day comes, it isn't past 45. I've been keeping an eye on the weather, waiting for a day in the mid to high 50's. We're just not there yet here in New England, apparently.

Today was another mid-50's promise, but the most it got to was around 47. So around 2:30PM this Saturday I decided to go into the hives in the backyard for the initial spring inspection.

Pink Hive

I started with that weird Pink hive - the one where I couldn't figure out if it was alive, or if it was just being robbed.

I opened it up, and saw some bees on top eating the sugar candy I never bothered to remove from this hive:

I pulled a couple of frames where I saw the most bees on the top, and saw a patch of brood.

Then I flipped over the frame, and look what I saw!

According to my Queen Bee Heritage spreadsheet, this is the queen from when the hive swarmed last year in June. So she did make it through the winter!

The interesting thing is that just a few frames over,there were a bunch of dead bees head-in to the cells; classic starvation.

What I surmise is this: some time during one of the warm winter days, it got warm enough that the hive cluster relaxed / spread out some. Then a cold snap occurred, and the cluster accidentally split into two groupings. One of those die (luckily not the one with the queen). Now what is left is a small group of bees.

What you see, repeated on 2 or 3 frames, is the extent of this cluster. If I would have been thinking, I would have moved over a frame or 2 from the brown hive to give this hive a jump-start. I still may do that tomorrow. This hive won't increase in numbers until more babies are born. And you can't have more eggs than you have enough nurse bees to care for them. A frame of bees and brood will help. I ended up adding more sugar syrup to this hive, and a pollen patty as well.

Brown Hive

Of all the three hives, the Brown Hive shows the most signs of activity. Whenever the weather is the slightest bit warm, those bees are out and about. Here's a frame with a lot of nectar and pollen:

And here is some brood:

The previous frame shows a second batch of brood being worked by the worker bees. Do you know how I know? Normally the queen starts in a center of a frame and lays eggs there, then moves to the edges. In this frame, the edges have capped brood, while the center has older uncapped brood and in between are either empty spaces or very young. The bees originally laid in the center of the frame have hatched, and the queen has laid replacement eggs there. I like this queen!

Speaking of the queen of the Brown hive, here she is:

Her white dot has worn off a lot, and there's just a ring left.

Here are more frames of good brood:

I also found about 4 frames along the edges looking like this:

This is capped honey/sugar syrup. I'm not sure which, but I suspect it is left over from last year. I will keep an eye on the hive because I don't want the queen to run out of space for laying because of frames like this. If I need to, I'll remove these frames and put in some empties.

I then moved down to the bottom chamber, and found this:

It's a frame with more brood. It's a semi-circle, the bottom "half" of the brood cluster. This is a good sign! Did I say how much I like this queen? If/when I do some grafting, it's going to be from her lineage.

I decided to put on a honey super of undrawn foundation, and add some jars of feed. My hope is that the bees will draw out the foundation so I can use it for honey collection later. If they do put up any of the sugar syrup in to that honey super I know it isn't honey, and if they do, I'll take the super off later and let the bees rob it out to get rid of the sugar; then I can put it back on (without feeding) to have them collect actual honey. I don't know any other way to get the bees to draw out foundation (unless there is a serious honey flow going on).

Green Hive

I then moved on to the Green Hive. It has a lot of activity, but not as much as the Brown Hive.
Here's the top of the frames in the top box:

She had some good brood patterns as well, plus nectar and pollen:

And I got a view of the queen herself:

All in all, I was pleased to see that all 3 hives survived. That makes me 5 for 5 (including the 2 hives in Sutton). In a few weeks once the weather is consistently warm, I'll look into making some queens by grafting.

In the past years I haven't had any luck catching any swarms around my house. I suppose it's because I don't have the swarm trap nucs in the correct place. I heard they need to be up high and facing south. Since I can't really get into my trees well, the only place I have that is high and facing south is my ... chimney!

So I put together a nuc with some frames of old comb and strapped it to the top of my chimney. I attached it to the flue coming out of the chimney (it goes to our fireplace, which we don't use) so it will stay there.

Who knows - I may catch something!

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