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...