Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Earlier in the week I made it into the hives for the first inspections of the year. Each inspection took a while as there was a lot of cleaning up to do. A whole winter's worth of wax and propolis doesn't clean up easily. Everything was stuck together and there was a mess of bees, wax, etc. in the bottom that needed to be cleaned up.

I modified my management style this year. Last year I was so excited to get the colonies built up that I started feeding sugar syrup and pollen patties in about the middle of March. The populations increased quickly, and by the time summer was coming on I was trying to prevent swarming. With all of the hive manipulations to keep them from swarming both hives ended up going queenless for a good part of the summer. This year I decided to hang tight and only feed them bee candy to keep them from starving.

So here we are in the middle of April and I have seen pollen coming for about a week and the bees have been doing orientation flights for quite a while. As I dug through the hives I found quite a bit of honey and a fair amount of pollen left from last year as well as new pollen from this spring. Both hives have good healthy populations with eggs, larva, and capped brood. I am glad I haven't been feeding sugar syrup or the numbers would be booming way too early.

This first photo shows a few bees on a frame with a small bit of honey.

There were several more frames with a lot more honey than this.

This next photo just shows some of the brood. This pattern is kind of spotty but I suppose it will get better as the queen gets things cranking this summer.

Here is the bottom board of Virginia's hive. There was a lot of bits of wax, sugar from the bee candy, pollen, and piles of dead bees.

Finally, this last photo shows the underside of Virginia's screened bottom board. It is tipped up on its side leaning back against the other hive. Last summer some of the bees crawled underneath and started building this comb. I don't have any idea why they felt compelled to do this. I cleaned it all up but wonder if they will just do the same thing again this year. All the eggs and brood were in the upper deep hive bodies in each hive. Since I had torn the hives completely apart to clean it all up I too the opportunity to reverse the hive bodies. The queens should now have plenty of room to move up and fill all those empty frames with brood. Hopefully this will prevent any swarming while still building numbers to be ready for the nectar flows in the coming months.


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