Sunday, April 11, 2010

Pussy Willow Blooms Today!

The bees have, for the past 2 or 3 weeks, been bringing a little bit of pollen. Not a lot, but every now and then I would see a bee or two returning to the hive with small pollen baskets on their legs. I was never able to figure out where they were getting it as I have not seen anything in bloom since last fall. As I was walking across the yard today I noticed that the pussy willow was finally popping out in yellow. (It has had the little white buds for a couple of weeks now.)

When I arrived at the pussy willow I found bees all over the place. They should really start packing in the pollen now.

I assume that at least the majority of the bees were mine, but there are two other hobbyist beekeepers here in town. One has a couple of hives just about 3 blocks from our house and the other has 2 more hives just about 1/2 mile away. I suppose there could be other feral colonies in the area as well.

I took several photos but I am no photographer. These two are the only ones that were even half way in focus.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Time To Remodel

I did a little remodeling in Georgia's hive yesterday. I thought she was getting a little crowded so I knocked out a few walls and made the nursery a little bigger.

Ok, actually, I expanded the brood nest. Georgia has been booming and she is full of bees, and I have been a little worried that she would swarm on me this spring. In fact, she has been so full of bees that even though temps haven't been above 60 she has been bearding a little on the front of the hive- even into the chilly evening hours. As I inspected the hive I found that the queen has been moving back and forth between the upper and lower deep hive bodies- there are eggs, larva, and capped brood in both boxes. I checked for swarm cells and didn't see any. That meant that I still had time to try a swarm prevention maneuver.

According to some beekeepers on beesource, bees swarm in the spring because the queen begins to run out of room to lay. As the workers fill in the hive with honey the brood nest becomes restricted with fewer eggs being layed. This puts nurse bees out of work. The unemployed nurse bees then start signaling to the other bees that it is time to raise another queen so part of the colony can take off and find a new home. In order to prevent this I "expanded the brood nest". In the bottom box I removed three frames which contained no brood from the outside edges of the hive and replaced them with three empty frames. I placed the empty frames interspersed among frames containing brood in the middle of the hive. This will give the queen a little more room to lay and gives the unemployed nurse bees something to do as they build new comb on the new frames. Hopefully this will keep them content until the nectar flows start and I start adding supers.

As I was inspecting Georgia I came across this queen cup in the middle of a frame which the bees built it in the middle of this low spot in the comb. It is located in the upper 2/3 of the frame. Why the bees never finished drawing out comb right here I don't know. Had it been down along the lower edge I would been concerned about swarming, but as it is I don't think I have much to worry about. Bees will sometimes make these queen cups just in case they need to supersede the existing queen. I ran across a few of them last summer as well. I suspect that this one will sit empty as I can't imagine they will want to supersede this prolific queen. It looks like she is doing a fantastic job.

I inspected Virginia as well and discovered that her queen has been moving up and down between the brood boxes also. Her population is much smaller though, and there is still lots of room left for her queen to lay.

Before closing them up I treated both with terramycin to prevent foulbrood infections. I bought it from betterbee earlier this spring. It came as a powder mixed with powdered sugar and soy flour. I just took a couple of handfuls and sprinkled it on top of the top bars. I don't know if the bee consume it directly, pack it away with pollen, or what. Maybe as the bees track through it and carry it around the hive it kills any bacteria or spores it comes in contact with. I will repeat this treatment once or twice more this spring.

Now once again I sit and wait. In a week or two I will inspect again, check for sign of swarming, expand the brood nest again if I need to, and treat again with terramycin. I can't wait for this year to get moving!

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