Saturday, February 12, 2011

February Thaw

It finally warmed up a little- enough for the bees to get out for some cleansing flights. I walked over to the hives today and saw little yellow spots all over the snow. I also saw several bees who went out to relieve themselves, got chilled, and crash landed on the snow never to see the inside of their hive again. Some people think this is kind of sad, but I have always thought of the entire hive as being one organism. If some bees are lost I am not bothered as long as the individual hive remains healthy.

Since it was a little warmer today I wanted to see how the bees were doing and how much honey they have left. I had a chance to pop the tops back in the first part of January- at that time both clusters were in the upper deep just below the medium supers that are sitting on top. I wasn't sure how much honey they might have gone through since then so I thought it might be a good idea to have something ready to feed them just in case. Last year I tried the mountain camp method of feeding- that mostly left a big mess in the hives. I didn't have anything else ready to go so I filled a couple of pint jars with some old crystallized honey and figured I could lay them down on their sides on top of the frames. That would give me time to whip up some bee candy to put in on Monday or Tuesday. (It is supposed to keep getting into the upper 30's and 40's for a few more days.) Here is a picture of the emergency feed I had ready to go.

I first opened up Georgia's hive and this is what I found:Georgia's cluster appears small. I am not sure if it really is that small or if the majority of the cluster was still down below. I did not want to disturb them too much to find out. She still has about 7 medium frames of honey left.

I next popped open Virginia's hive. This is what I found under her cover:Virginia's cluster covers about half of the medium super. She also has about 7 medium frames of honey left in her super.

I decided I did not need to provide the crystallized honey as emergency feed today. I will make some bee candy this weekend and place it in the hives on Monday. I think I might put both the honey and the bee candy in at the same time. It will be interesting if they take all the honey before starting on the candy, or if they will take them simultaneously. I have never made bee candy before so this will be a new adventure. I will use a recipe I found on

At this point it looks like Virginia has the healthier hive and larger colony. Last year it was just the opposite and Georgia had a booming hive while Virginia struggled all spring. They both ended up requeening themselves last summer so I don't know which one has the better queen now.

Lastly, we drove up to Cody this morning to run a few errands. As we were driving back I noticed that the willow trees up there are turning bright orange. Willows are probably the first plants that offer the bees any kind of forage each spring. From what I have been able to research on the internet it looks like bees use willows for both nectar and pollen. This does get me a little excited for spring to arrive, but I know that we are still a long way off from any significant nectar flow. It is hard to be patient.


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