Ahead In April

I checked in on the girls again today, since temps have been consistently warmer and flowers are everywhere. They have started moving up into the second brood box and there are 5 full frames between the two deeps of ripening honey. Pollen is tucked in everywhere, with about 3 full frames scattered around the hive. Drones have also started showing up, and one of the drone frames from last year (which I accidentally left centrally located in the top brood box) has been filled. 5 frames of capped brood are in the lower brood box, a frame of fresh eggs is in the top, and there were 2 small frames emerging in the super.

I moved the super, which I had left on the bottom of the hive, to the top. The bees were just starting to emerge from the frames in it so I wanted the box up where the honey should be going. I’m also hoping it reminds the bees they still have lots of empty frames to work with. They had a superscedure cell forming in the top box but I squashed it. I moved a few empty frames in closer to the brood nest, and pulled the full secondary frames of honey away. Everything is looking really good!

Honeybees Into Spring

I checked on the bees today! I can’t say how happy I am that they’ve made it through to spring! I overwintered them without taking any honey and I used mite treatments last year and it seems to have made a difference! Also, quick prelude of the hive arrangment just for clarity’s sake. The hive is currently comprised of one white deep box, one green deep box, and one white super.

I decided to take no chances last year so I left the entire super on for the winter. I’m glad I did because we had one of the harshest winters I’ve ever seen! It snowed at least 3 times here, and each snow was more than 4 inches. One snow we had was 6 inches deep and everything stayed frozen for a week! Some honey was still capped in the super when I checked on them today, but the majority of it had been used. Surprisingly they were working on capping more! There were also a couple frames of brood showing up here, almost entirely all new eggs, and a swarm cell. I squashed the swarm cell, set this box off to the side and moved into the top deep box. I was delighted to find this box full of bees! Only three frames were not in use, and it was pretty heavy. It was only 55 degrees today but it was so sunny I couldn’t resist checking on the girls. Since it was cooler than it should have been to properly check on them I only pulled the frames from the edges to check food stores. Pollen is everywhere in the hive and I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much. Entire frames covered in just pollen. I pulled the empty frames from this box (the green deep) and set it aside as well.

The lowest deep, the white one, was unsurprisingly empty. It was heavier than I expected it to be though so I checked for honey pockets. There were a couple and I moved these to the center of the box. I also removed this box from the floor of the hive, and scraped the dead bees from the winter into my compost bin. The bees weren’t very happy with this, and there was quite a cloud of orange legged gals waiting for me when I came back with the floor. It was a little comical to see so many pretty golden bees flying with bright orange pants on. I quickly replaced the floor, and put the super down first. I want to encourage them to move out of that super as quickly as possible since I’d like to use it for honey later this year. That said, this colony will very likely be split at the end of next month because they’re going to be massive! I couldn’t believe how big the cloud of bees waiting for me was, especially since there were so many frames of brood in the hive (5 at least in the green deep alone). After the super was placed I put the green deep on next. This box was left mostly alone, although I did pull a frame of pollen/honey from each side of the brood cluster (there were two full frames of food on either side) and put it in the white deep. I swapped full frames from green deep with empty ones from the white, taking care not to disrupt the brood nest. Then the white deep went on top of the green, and the full frames of food were placed dead center above the cluster, with half full left overs from the winter.

The weather here has been sporadic and rainy. I only just saw a bumblebee for the first time yesterday, which was a little worrying. My scoulers willow ga native variety) finished blooming a couple of weeks ago but I never saw any bumblebees on it, and they love the pollen it produces. The weather was just too cold a rainy for anyone to be out. Today was beautiful though, and my bees and I were out for most of it. Grape hyacinth are popping up everywhere and my food garden is almost fully planted. And I’m still working on my chicken coop but I get chicks on Friday!

Swarms In August

I checked in on the bees again today, this time equipped with some half full feeders (I had a lot less sugar than I expected). I was dismayed to find that White Hive has virtually no honey stores. One solid frame and a couple of super frames was all they had for honey, and there was even less pollen. I pulled 3 of the empty super frames out and put in the feeder I had. It’s just a mason jar with some holes poked in the top. There’s a base that goes with it, so the bees can easily get underneath the lid and access all the holes, but I just propped the jar up on a small rock so I wouldn’t have to remove more frames. They had about 5 frames of solid capped brood.

Green Hive was even worse off. Two deep boxes with bees and only 2 frames of honey. I was horrified to find that the colony had swarmed sometime since I last checked on them. There were about 15 swarm cells that had been used. AND they were in the process of raising more queens! I saw 3 cells with eggs in them. The queen was still in the hive and there were three frames of eggs/larvae. No sign of any capped brood. I rearranged some frames so that as much pollen/ nectar was in one box, and then shook all the bees out of the box filled with empty frames. I’m very tempted to combine the colonies. Green Hive has more adult bees, but White Hive has more food.

I’m really disappointed with how things turned out. I don’t expect that either of them will make it through the winter. Unless I added a gallon of sugar water to each hive every day, I don’t see how they will manage the winter. And this year was such a pleasant year too! There was rain consistently throughout the summer so flowers were regularly replenished.

If I get home early enough on Saturday I will try combining them then. I have a construction project happening on Monday and it will be right next to the bees so I don’t want to work with them on Sunday or Monday and risk getting the construction guys into trouble.

Prepping For Fall

After many weeks of leaving the bees to their own devices I opened them up to reduce their hIves down for winter, and to treat them again for mites. I opened White Hive up first, and was dismayed to find virtually no honey stores in either of the two deep boxes. The super I put on actually weighed more than the lighter of the deeps. I shuffled the frames around so that the majority of the important frames were in the bottom deep box. There was plenty of pollen (lots on all of the frames) but only about 1.5 frames worth of honey through the entire hive. Normally I would take the super off for winter, but given the lack of honey anywhere else I chose to leave it on. I didn’t fully close the hive up once I was done with the inspection, because I needed to put the treatment on as well, but I wanted to do that for both hives at the same time.

Green Hive had even less honey in it, but significantly more bees. After rearranging the frames there were about 8.5 solid frames of brood, and two solid frames of pollen in the top box. They had occupied enough frames in the second deep box that unfortunately I couldn’t removed it today. I just switched frames between the boxes so that the majority of the brood cluster was in the top box, and as many frames in the lower box were either occupied or fully drawn out with wax. Egg production in white hive has definitely slowed, but not so much in green hive. We’re headed into the hottest part of the summer, with fall only 7 or 8 weeks away, so I know I’ll be feeding them all winter. Green hive had 6 or 7 swarm cells on one of the frames in the lower box which I thought was weird they looked like they had been hastily drawn out, and some of them were a decent size, but none were occupied by a developing queen.

I did see a varroa mite on a couple of bees in White Hive which was annoying but expected. I decided to use MAQS for this treatment, and applied two in each colony once I had finished the inspection. The bees were NOT happy about this treatment at all and came bubbling out of the roof of Green Hive as soon as I’d put the second hive body back on. The bees in White Hive have all been hanging out on the front of the hive since I put the treatment in.

All in all things aren’t looking so great but at least I’ve got my feeders ready to go!

Additions For Everyone

I know it’s been a while since I checked the bees (at least a month) but I’ve been really busy with work and garden projects. Both hives looked great today. I’ve got errands to run so I opened them up really early in the day, which was definitely a problem for both hives. White Hive was REALLY aggressive, and at one point I thought about stopping with them. I added a deep box on last time, which they haven’t really moved into yet, so I moved a couple of the outer frames from the bottom box up into the center of the second box. And because I seen to have no time to check on them, I added the only super I have, with a queen guard, as well. White Hive was lower on honey stores than the last time I checked them, but there’s lots of pollen. I only saw one super exude cell, so that’s good. The Super has some honey from last years bees in it, so those extra few frames of food should help them.

Green Hive was only slightly less aggressive that White Hive, but they had been left in a single deep box and everyone was packed in tightly. I added a deep box on top for them as well, and moved 4 outer frames up into the center of the top box. 2 frames were stores and 2 frames were brood. They have a little bit more honey than White Hive, which I thought was interesting.

All in all both hives look really good! The only plants that are being heavily worked by bees in my garden right now are Oregano and lavender. The lavender is huge and covered in at least 4 different kinds of bees at all times. I’ve even seen some new species to the garden this year on it!

HopGuard week 3

This marks the third week of hop guard treatment. Last week I did a very quick check on the hives before I replaced the hop guard strips. I checked the outer edges of the brood nest to see how many frames of brood each colony had. White Hive had 8 last week, so I added an extra deep box for them with some honey stores in it for encouragement. Green Hive had 5 frames last week so they just got their treatment.

I’ll check in on them next weekend and remove the treatments. Today marks the first day of summer so things will be much warmer here on out. It’s been a perfect spring though. Rain every few days when we needed it, 70 degree days more often than not. It was actually too hot for spring here in Washington. We had several record setting days up in the 90s. Everything is vibrant and green as a result though. I’m sure we’ll have a very dry summer.

Anyway, everything is going great with the bees so far!

Treating For Mites

This year I decided to really be responsible and treat for varroa mites. Today was the first chance I had to check on the bees again since I got them, and everything looks good! White Hive has 6 frames of brood, with the other four frames being dedicated to new honey stores mixed in with last years. There was pollen coming in but not as much as Green Hive. Green Hive has 4 frames of brood, with the cluster being about an inch shallower altogether in comparison of White Hive. The pollen stores are significantly higher in Green Hive though, and there’s lots of honey as well.

I wasn’t sure how far along either colony would be already, so I grabbed an old deep box from my room just incase. I found it FULL of wax moth larvae. Each frame had  cocoons along the outer edges, and the front and back walls were also covered. I had seen wax moths fluttering around my room in the past but I didn’t think it was as extensive as it was. And I cleared out the boxes I suspected were the trouble, so finding this was really crazy.

I also was unaware that wax moths ate wood. Each of the white patches inside the box is a small divot where a larvae spun a cocoon. I cleaned off every frame and the box is still usable. Fortunately neither colony needs a second box added yet.

After fully inspecting the hives I placed a strip of Hopguard in each of them. I just realized you’re not supposed to do a full inspection before treating them, but I also am working 6 days a week and didn’t really have a choice.

After putting a strip in the center of each of the hives, I quickly closed them up. The queen in White Hive is really pretty. She’s a really dark brown color with flecks of gold along the upper edge of each cuticle. I didn’t see the queen in Green Hive so I’m not too sure what she looks like now that she’s in the swing of things.

Hopefully the treatment goes well! I’m supposed to apply the second treatment in a week, and then let the second treatment sit for 2 weeks.