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


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