Wednesday, May 25, 2011

We Have Nectar!

This is just a quick update on the status of the hives. Back on May 13th we inspected the hives and put a medium honey super on top of each hive. The bees had plenty of room in the brood nest, but since dandelions and fruit trees were starting to bloom we thought we would give the bees room to store honey if they needed it. We have not had a lot of sunny calm days since then, but since today we are getting a break from the rain I decided to take a quick look in the supers to see if they had made any progress up there.

I first popped the top off Virginia and looked through a few frames. The super had quite a few bees up in it but was certainly not full of bee by any means. I looked at four frames and found a only five or six cells with nectar on each frame. I was not too surprised by this considering the relatively little time the bees have had to forage.

I then moved over to Georgia and found the super very full of bees. I looked at five frames and found significant nectar on three of them. Each of the three frams was about 1/4 full of nectar. These two photos show the nectar shining in the sunlight.Just think of what Georgia could have accomplished if we had had decent weather! I do hope that the weather dries out so the bees can take advantage of the fruit trees etc. before they finish blooming.

As for the fewer number of bees in Georgia- here are my thoughts (I could be wrong and probably
am): Back on May 13th we discovered 2 queens in Georgia's hive. They were just a couple of inches apart and one of them was missing a wing. I do not think they were in the middle of swarming or the existing queen would have swarmed before the new queen emerged from her queen cell. Since one of the queens was missing a wing I figure the she was the existing queen and the bees had superceded with a new queen. I have heard that the mother and daughter queens can live side by side for a while in this situation. If the existing queen either left or died there would be a period of time with no brood production before her daughter had time to mate and start laying eggs. That could explain the fewer numbers in Virginia's hive.

In any case, it looks like we are getting started with this years honey production. Can't wait!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Photos Of Nectar Flows

We have had a few days of rain which has kind of put a damper on the bees' ability to get out and forage for nectar. But today has been a beautiful day so I took the opportunity to get out with the camera and snap a few photos of the girls while at work.

The dandelions are in full bloom right now and our yard is one big yellow field. If the sun is shining and there isn't much wind you can see the bees fly up around your feet with every step.

The dandelions are a welcome sight in the spring. They are among the first flowers to bloom after the willows get under way and are a major pollen and nectar sources for springtime.

A lot of fruit trees are also getting underway. These next two photos are from the pear tree in our back yard.

The bees do seem to enjoy the pear blossoms but so far that has not translated into a lot of pears on the tree. We are usually lucky to get just one or two. I am not aware of a lot of pear trees in town. For all I know, this may be the only one.

The next two are bees on the apple tree also in the back yard.

There are a lot of apple trees in town and I think they are all blooming right now.

Besides apple trees there are a lot of crab apple trees in town. Since our community is not large the entire town is within easy foraging distance of the hives. This next photo is a crab apple tree just around the block from our house.
You can see how it is covered in pink/purple blossoms. That looks like a lot of nectar to me.

These next two photos show some little purple flowers that have been springing up in vacant lots and other open spaces. I do not know what they are called but the bees seem to like them well enough.

These purple flowers seem to spread quickly and I'm sure no one wants them coming up in their yards, but I don't mind them on the canal banks supplying forage for the bees.

Besides these trees and flowers in the preceding photos it seems like just about every hedge, shrub, and flowering tree is bursting in blossom. If we can just get some nice sunny warm days the bees might be able to pack away a little honey.

These last two photos were taken this morning. The bees were very busy taking off to go foraging as well as performing orientation flights. I wanted to get a picture showing how many were in the air.

These photos do not quite show how many bees were actually in the air. But if you multiply the bees you see here by 5 or 6 you might get the idea.

Last year the bees continued to fill the supers up with nectar even after the main dandelion flow and the fruit tree flows were finished and before the alfalfa bloom started. I suppose there must be other various wildflowers and weeds along the canals, ditch banks, and road sides. Last year the alfalfa bloom started on about June 20th- that is when honey production cranks up in earnest. I think that this spring hasn't been quite as cool and wet as last year so maybe things will really start moving a little earlier than last year.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Queens... Living And Dead

We finally made it back into the hives today. It had been a while. This year I am taking more of a minimalist approach to managing the hives. There are two reasons for this. First, I have just been so dang busy this year. I have hardly had time to think about the bees much less actively manage them. Secondly, last year I started feeding sugar syrup and pollen patties when it started warming up at the end of March. Both hive populations built up explosively and then I was left trying to prevent swarming by opening up the brood chamber on more than one occasion. With all those manipulations both hives ended up going queen-less for a good portion of the summer. This year I fed them bee candy and crystallized honey to get them through until the nectar flows got underway this spring. Here is what we found today:

We started with Virginia. I did not want to go through every frame, just check on a few to make sure the queen had been laying and to see if they were getting crowded. On the very first frame we pulled we saw two queens a few inches apart. This was very exciting. I had not seen a queen in either hive since shortly after we hived the original packages in 2009. Here is a photo of one ofthe queens.

I don't know why there were two queens in the hive or if there might have been more somewhere in there. If you look closely you can see that this queen is missing a wing. Maybe she was the old queen and is being superceded because of her injury. Who knows?

Both hives have some empty frames so there is plenty of space for the queens to lay.

During the last inspection back in April, both queens were laying in loose spotty patterns. Here is an example of their brood patterns lately.

The pattern is looking a lot better!

We came across two queens in Georgia as well. These queens were not live adult bees, though. As I pulled the top box off we found this next image on top of the frames below.

It is a photo of two queen pupae that were apparently in queen cells on the bottom of one of the frames in the upper box. Queen cells hang so low that they frequently get attached to the frames below them. The cells were torn open exposing these to pupae. Since they were on the bottoms of the frames they would be in swarm cell position. I am not sure why the bees would be making swarm cells as there is plenty of space in the hive for the queen to continue laying. In remaining consistent with my minimalist approach this year I am going to assume that the bees know what they are doing and will let them figure things out themselves.

The bees have been very active for the last several weeks. I have seen lots of pollen coming in. In fact, here is a photo of a frame full of pollen.

It was really kind of pretty- an entire frame packed full of bright yellow pollen.

Dandelions are in full bloom right now as are some plum trees and a few apples. The apple trees in our yard will blossom shortly and the pear blossoms are ready to pop open any minute. The crab apple trees around town are also very close to blooming.

With these current nectar flows and those that are about to start we went ahead and put a honey super on each of the hives. I spaced the frames out to nine frames in a ten frame super. I tried this last year, and it makes it easier to uncap the frames at honey harvest time as the comb is drawn out a little deeper and extends beyond the edges of the frames.

If it stays nice and warm maybe the alfalfa will bloom a little earlier than it did last year and honey production will crank up into high gear.

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