Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Beautiful Day For Bees

Yes... Today was a beautiful day for bees. We had our warmest day of winter so far as the temperature hit 46 degrees. Upon walking out in the backyard and glancing at the hives I saw bees galore, maybe hundreds of them, on the front of the hives and flying out in front. With a closer look I saw yellow spots from cleansing flights all over the snow extending out 20 feet ot so from the hives. Even more interesting was that in front of Virginia it looked like the bees were performing orientation flights. What I did find surprising was that there was considerably more activity in front of Virginia than Georgia. Virginia is the much weaker hive of the two.

I did take the opportunity to initiate some Mountain Camp feeding for Virginia. I have read that late winter and early spring can be the deadliest time for bees as they run out of honey stores and starve to death before the spring nectar flows begin or their keepers begin feeding them for the spring build-up.

To accomplish this type of feeding, I added an empty medium super to the top of the hive, placed newspapers directly on top of the frames, and added dry granulated sugar on top of the newspaper. I poured the sugar on in layers and sprayed with water in between to form crusty layers. This is supposed to encourage the bees to eat the sugar rather than carrying it out of the hive and disposing of it. The final product can be seen in this picture.

Besides providing the bees with something extra to eat, the sugar in this kind of feeding absorbs moisture in the hive. Moisture in a hive can be deadly as it can chill the bees as well as act as a breeding ground for Nosema, a protozoan which causes dysentery in honey bees. I found a good discussion on Nosema from UC Davis here if you would like more information. It is interesting and an easy read.

Now Nosema is something which I am mildly concerned about. As I looked around at the spots on the hive and in the snow from today's cleansing flights, I saw some that looked kind of streaked and had a slight brownish color- 2 signs of nosema. We did treat both hives last fall with Fumigillin-B in their sugar syrup, but Virginia took very little of the sugar syrup we provided to her. Assuming we can get both hives through what is left of this winter we will treat again later this spring

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cleansing Flights

Heat wave today! It finally got above 40 degrees. We have had a few days approach 40 but never warm enough for the bees to actually get out of the hives. Consequently, I have not been able to see the bees get out for any cleansing flights. I had looked for the little yellow spots in the snow that are evidence of cleansing flights but had not seen those either... until today.

When I noticed that the temperature was climbing I ran out to look at the hives- lo and behold there were actually a few bees getting out and about. I decided to take this opportunity to peek in the hives and see how winter stores were holding out.

I lifted the cover off of Virginia first- here is a photo of the cluster. I did not pull out any frames or move anything around so as not to disturb the cluster too much. As I looked over the hive I found that they have capped honey left on 4 or 5 of the frames. I didn't have time today but I am still going to supplement Virginia with dry sugar. Maybe 4-5 frames of honey will be enough to get them through, but I don't know enough to be sure yet. There is a huge learning curve when it comes to beekeeping- especially this first year.

I didn't bother with the veil and gloves while looking at Virginia. The bees were so calm- not a single bee flew out of the hive. When I lifted the cover off of Georgia, however, about 4 bees shot out. Maybe they wouldn't have bothered me, but I didn't feel like testing the water. How would I explain a bee sting in February? Anyway, I ran back in and donned the veil and gloves before proceeding.

This is what I saw when I finally got in to take a look at Georgia. It doesn't look like they were organized in such a tight cluster as Virginia. It looks like there are just a lot more bees as well. Georgia developed into a nice strong colony last summer while Virginia kind of dwindled at the end, so I am not surprised to see more bees here. I am a little worried about Georgia swarming during her spring build up so I am planning on performing a procedure called "opening the broodnest" as a method of swarm prevention. I think that Georgia is doing just fine as far as honey supplies go. They have moved up to the top deep hive body, but if you click on the picture to get a larger view, you can see that all the frames are still full of honey.

As I said earlier, there were some bees out on their cleansing flights- just a few though. Bees are very hygienic and won't relieve themselves inside the hive. This means that while it is cold outside the bees have to "hold it" until it gets warm enough outside to fly out and "cleanse" their systems. You can always tell when bees have been performing cleansing flights by the little yellow dots of bee pooh in the snow. Here I was able to capture some evidence of their cleansing flights today. After taking off the veil and gloves I found a little yellow spot on top of my helmet where one little bee decided to say "Hello".

In this next picture you can see the bee that followed me in the house. I pinched it in a paper towel to stop my youngest son from freaking out. When I unfolded it I found this yellow stain that had apparently been squeezed out of the bee. I assume it is the material the bee would have shed during its cleansing flight this afternoon. Don't ask me why but I felt compelled to give it a whiff. Maybe it should come as no surprise, but bee pooh does not have a pleasant odor.

On a completely unrelated note, the honey that we harvested last fall has finally started to crystallize. It has not solidified completely, it just looks kind of cloudy with all the little crystals in it. We pulled the supers off last September so it has taken about 5 months for crystallization to begin. I have no idea how that compares to anyone else's honey. I do know that honey from different nectar sources crystallize at different rates. Dandelion and sunflower honey, for example, will crystallize fairly quickly. In any case, crystallization doesn't affect the flavor and our honey is still the best anywhere (in my unbiased opinion that is).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...