Spring at the hive

Glechoma hederacea

Glechoma hederacea

I’ve just been out to check on the girls. Finally there are more flowers blooming as we have a few warm days. Becoming a beekeeper has changed my perspective on what I look for as a harbinger of spring. I’ve always loved dandelions and now I know bees love dandelions too. Other early spring things that bees love include some very unobtrusive plants (for some these will be weeds) such as ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea). Unfortunately many plants (ornamental) preferred by us aren’t beneficial to bees–they don’t produce enough pollen or nectar. One of the “harbingers” here seems to be the Bradford Pear–they are everywhere–and not for the bees. Fortunately, there are some plants/flowers that are good for both the bees and us though they may not be what we consider most glamorous or desirable–for many ornamental flowers we’ve bred out pollen and nectar production which bees need.

With my new perspective on blossoms, I’m noticing things that are likely to be considered weeds by many–especially those who want a lawn that looks like AstroTurf! Not my cup of tea at all, and not for the bees.

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Acer spp

Acer spp

Even though things are starting to bloom, we still have cool days or periods of rain (when the bees cannot forage). This is a time of population explosion in the hive as the bees get ready for nectar flow–maximize the workforce. Rearing brood and drawing comb is energy intensive and though there is honey still in the hive, I’ve added some “feed”–aka granulated sugar–to help them over periods when foraging is impossible. The maple trees are breaking into bloom and the bees bring pollen from them back to the hive, but they are not a major nectar source. Bees are not like the postal service–some things do prevent going out to forage, hence the sugar that I put into the hive this morning. If the bees are getting plenty of nectar and pollen, they will ignore that stack of sugar and go out and bring back the good stuff.

 

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A closer look into the hive

Sunny, but only 57 degrees Fahrenheit today, but I decided that I had to get into the hive enough to see what food stores were like. So off came the quilt box and the frame where the candyboard USED to be. It’s completely gone just as I thought from my hasty 20160116_134032peek the other day. Since it was rather breezy, I pulled only a couple frames and didn’t open the bottom hive box, didn’t look for the queen (except on the top of the frames), didn’t look for queen cells, or anything like that.

What I did find when I removed the quilt box was an empty candyboard frame. Not a crumb left, and the bees were building comb in the space left when the candyboard was devoured. I certainly was not expecting to see that. Since it was cool and breezy, I decided not to attempt to clean away the burr comb (brace comb or bridge comb are apparently all the same thing) on the top bars–I just wussed out and put the candyboard frame back on. It looked as if there was brood, and capped honey in the burr comb on top.

There wasn’t a sign of clustering–bees were spread all over the middle and upper boxes just going about doing what bees do. I just wasn’t expecting to see them actively building 20160116_134426comb at this time of the year. The two outer frames in the upper box, and the middle box are being drawn too–even though bees seem reluctant to work on those–they like to go right up the middle.

When I lifted the upper box, I found some more burr comb between those two boxes–and bees spread out doing their thing. (Not the best pictures, but I didn’t spend a lot of time taking them.) There were pupae in the brace comb between the boxes which was a surprise, but I still didn’t pull frames to locate the brood. Maybe I’m overly cautious as a “newbie”, but I didn’t want to chance chilling the brood that was on the frames.

I think the weather we’ve been having is confusing the girls–I know they are confusing me–and I’m glad that the “bee school” starts Monday so I can ask 20160116_pupae and burr comb_134800some questions of experienced beekeepers. It’s been a strange season so far.

Those “white bees” that you see where I’ve disrupted the burr comb are the pupae–they would have started to darken like the girls and would have chewed their way out of the comb soon.  I guess overall it looks as if I have a thriving hive here–and more bees on the way though the weather forecast is calling for cooler weather soon with daytime highs in the upper 30s and low 40s for the next week. Nighttime temperatures in the teens and twenties for about the next week.

After looking in the hive today, I think there is enough honey for the next bit, but I need advice from an experienced beekeeper on whether to feed–and how to do it in cold weather.

I was happy to see pollen being brought into the hive today though I don’t know where they are finding it–maybe on the Third Fork trail which is close. There was a fascinating array of colors–orange, reddish-orange, deep yellow, lighter yellow, greenish yellow, and some that could be called green or maybe chartreuse.

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Hive report (08 &10 September 2015)

traffic in and out of hive08 September 2015: Even though it’s a cloudy day there’s a good amount of traffic in and out of the hive–I’m glad I did give them a larger entrance to the hive when I had it open for the inspection.

I’ve looked at the flight path in and out of the hive and I think that they are heading for a local greenway/trail. Looking at Google Earth map, that is easily within a one-mile radius of the hive. I need to go hike the trail and see what is blooming now.  That’s one of the things you need to look at the blooming flowers from a bee’s point of view, and the quality of nectar produced by the flower. So much to learn….

Today I put the “stickyboard” in the screened bottom board to assess Varroa destructor (mites) in the colony to find out if I need to treat for them before winter. That has to stay under the hive for three days so I can get an idea of what’s going on with mites.

honey bees at hive carrying pollen10 September 2015:  The girls have been slurping down the sugar syrup (with Honey-B-Healthy), as well as bringing in pollen and nectar.  I gave them new syrup today as they had almost completely cleaned out the jars.

When I went out to the hive I got to see some different honey bee behavior:  I had bees washboarding on the front of the hive. No one seems to know what this behavior is, but it’s common, and it’s done by “adolescent” worker bees.

There was lots of traffic in and out–different colors of pollen being carried in–the bright yellow shows up most clearly, but I saw some orange, white, deeper yellow, and some very dark red while I was watching them come and go.

Tomorrow I’ll be able to pull the stickyboard and see what the Varroa population looks like.  Fingers crossed on that one since this is a new colony.  I’ve been reading about the various treatments, including some “natural” ones that use herbs, and other “harder” chemicals.

It will be another week before I can sneak another peek inside to see how much pollen, nectar, brood, and honey is there.  It’s  like wanting to peek into the oven to see if the soufflé is rising properly–not at all a good idea no matter how curious you are.

pollen colors

pollen rainbow

Watching the bees bring pollen into the hive, I saw mostly yellow but on looking at the frames I saw other colors–and so to Google–a veritable rainbow.

krista and jess

You really should click for a larger look.

And if you are a nerd (I know you are), click for the Wikipedia with a pollen color chart.

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