Monday, January 11, 2010

Inside The Hives

It warmed up to a balmy 38 degrees today so I went out to take a peek at the hives this afternoon. There was not a lot of activity but there were a few bees walking around on the front porches. Since it was apparently warm enough for the bees to break cluster a little I decided to peek inside and maybe see about feeding them some supplemental sugar to make sure they could make it through the winter.

Having never opened up the hives in winter before, I didn't know if they would be calm or cranky and if I should gown up or go in bare skinned. I chose to don the hat/veil combo and put on the gloves just to be safe. It turned out that I didn't need to- they were very calm and docile. Not even one bee flew up out of the hives.

As I looked down into Georgia I could hear the bees buzzing in there but couldn't see any without pulling and moving the frames. I didn't want to disturb them too much so I let them be. I guess the cluster was down in the bottom deep hive body. What I did find, to my pleasant surprise, was that all the frames in the top deep were full of capped honey! That really put my mind at ease- I was afraid that I had not fed them enough last fall and they would run out of reserves before spring. I replaced the top cover and moved over to Virginia. Virginia was just as calm but I could see plenty of bees. The cluster had moved up to the center frames of the top deep hive body. I was even more worried about Virginia's stores because she seemed to take less of last fall's sugar syrup, but the 3-4 frames on either side of the cluster were full of capped honey. Let me tell you- that really put my mind at ease. Looks like no mountain camp supplemental feeding will be necessary. I closed up Virginia and went back in much less apprehensive than I had been.

I have one question that I am hoping some of you other beekeepers out there will be able to answer. As I looked down into Virginia I noticed some of the bees looked like they had yellow pollen granules stuck to them. I had noticed the same granules on some of the dead bees outside the hive. It is not on all of them by any means- actually they are on far less than half. Do any of you have any idea what it is and should I be worried?

Let's see- we are now approaching the middle of January. I think it will be time to start spring feeding in a month to a month and a half- sometime in March? I have some pollen patties stored in the freezer- we ordered them to feed the packages when they arrived last April. What I didn't know then but I do know now is that 15 pollen patties will last us several years. I will throw them on the tops of the frames in addition to sugar syrup to give the bees a kick start on spring brood rearing. Hopefully, we will then have two rip-roaring hives going in time for the late spring/early summer nectar flows. I do still want to order a new queen for Virginia- she really slowed down at the end of last summer (even decreased in population a little bit) and her bees got a lot crankier than Georgia's did. I hope that a new queen will calm them down and help them build better numbers.

Winter has been long but the end is in sight! We will soon get to graduate from "Newbie" status and become "Second Year Beekeepers"!


Kevin Braun said...

Could the pollen stuck on bees be simply that, some pollen stuck on bees ? I mean, if it does not look suspicious then it could simple be some pollen that got stuck.

Gareth said...

Thanks for the thought.I had considered that it could be pollen. However- I know they are not bringing in pollen from an outside source in the middle of January. Could they be getting into some pollen they had stored in the comb? I suppose, but this looked more like freshly collected pollen- not like the pollen packed into the cells for storage. But having never gone through a winter with bees I cannot definitively say that it is not stored pollen. They did look healthy though, so I am going to say that all is well!

Anonymous said...

Hey Gareth! Don't be so sure that your girls can't bring in pollen in winter. Just before new years, and it was cold mind you, I observed my girls bringing pollen from somewhere. I have no clue where they got it, but every few minutes -- my bees would fly in with their sacs loaded full. I think I read on Richard Underhill's blog that even in winter, they will sometimes tap a source of pollen. Before the snow came weeks ago, the pansies were busting out all over - and I saw that the dandelions are peeking their heads out in Tennessee. Its possible the dead ones were returning foragers that didn't make it back to the cluster and died. Just my thoughts! Stay well and warm! Mark

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