This time of the year can be hard for bees–we’re enjoying the results of their work earlier in the year but there’s not a lot for them to tote back to the hive to store in preparation for winter right now. As a beekeeper, dripping sweat in feels-like 97ºF temperatures, it can be a bit difficult to realize the ladies in the hive are in the midst of preparing for winter, or that while we enjoy plenty they are in a dearth of nectar and pollen–that bees can starve at this time of the year if the beekeeper is not keeping up with what the colony needs.
This was a routine inspection as, from the outside, both hives appear to be doing well, judging by traffic in and out though not much pollen seems to be carried into either hive. But that’s expected at this time of the year while we’re waiting for asters and goldenrod to bloom.
Although I can see the effect of the dearth with less brood, Rosemarinus colony has almost a full super of honey that is capped. My intention for that box was for cut-comb honey until the ladies declared it partly a brood box. Now there is only a very narrow band of drone brood on the lower edge of the center frames and the areas where brood had been are being filled with pollen and nectar. I was hoping to snatch a couple of the lateral frames for cut-comb honey even this late in the season but the girls have decided to put pollen there so I won’t take those frames now. (Learning experience for beekeeper!). I’m happy to see that much honey and pollen stored at this time of the year. Though I still haven’t seen that queen, I do see evidence that she’s doing what queens are supposed to do–brood in all stages and lots of workers also doing their thing.
Salvia hive (from the swarm earlier in the year) has grown well over the summer–lots of bees. Since I saw brood in all stages I didn’t spend a lot of time searching for the queen, but feel sure that this colony is queenright. The fourth box on this hive had been intended as a honey super so I had put a queen excluder on; the ladies seem to be reluctant to start drawing comb above it. They simply propolized it down to the top of the frames below. I removed it once I managed to free it from all the propolis and hope they will use it to store more honey for the winter. I’ll have to go back into the hive when the fall nectar flow starts to make sure that they are using those frames for honey storage. This hive also had capped honey and what appeared to me to be reasonable pollen stores for this time of year.
I’m so happy to see that both colonies appear to be in fine fettle for this time of year. I’ll put sugar syrup feeders on both hives today even with the honey stores that I saw because we are now in a dearth. When the aster and goldenrod come into bloom I’ll quit feeding until that bloom is over. I just don’t want the bees to have to use the current honey and pollen stores for survival right now. Those need to be saved for wintertime.
I also noticed (thanks to two stings while working the hive) that the girls are a bit testier than usual. After some research on one of my favorite beekeeping websites (Honey Bee Suite) I found a list of things that may make bees more aggressive. Among the things listed were nectar dearth, heat and high humidity, and rainy weather–all of which have been present in the last few days–and two present right now. The ground around my hives was definitely wet from the rain of the last few day and the dew point was in the 70s.
I guess I should be grateful that I got only two stings from the ladies! I’m sure I was grumpier after working for several hours in the heat and humidity, so I can understand theirs though I don’t care for the way in which they choose to communicate it to me.