Friday, March 23, 2012

Pussy Willow Bloom 2012

It has happened!  The pussy willow bloomed today.  It is one of the first key blooms of the year and supplies a lot of pollen for the bees.  For the past two years the pussy willow has bloomed on or about April 11th.  This puts us nearly 3 weeks ahead of schedule this year.  I stopped by some other willow species in town and found that they have not yet bloomed.  The dandelion bloom has not started yet either.
Georgia is getting very full of bees- I think it would be a good idea to split her soon.  The problem is that I have only seen two drones around the hive so far this spring.  Without a sufficient supply of drones any new queen that is made after the split will not be able to mate well, and that will not make for a healthy hive.  I do hope drone production starts up soon.

Here is a picture of the pussy willow.  It was very full of bees- you could here the hum from quite a distance.

If you look through the willow branches you can see two hives.  The hive closest to the pussy willow is empty and will become Ida after the split.  The other one is Georgia.

Here are more photos of bees in the willow.

It seems a little early, but I do think spring is here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Little White Fuzzies

This past weekend I noticed little white puffs of fuzz popping out on the pussy willow.
 Now in a couple of weeks these white fuzz balls should pop out in bright yellow blossoms covered in pollen, and the bees will kick pollen collection into high gear.  I looked back through the blog to find last year's pussy willow bloom date and found it on April 11th.  It looks like this year we are about 2 weeks ahead of last year.  This means that the big alfalfa bloom which has occurred on about June 20th for the last two years will happen closer to the first part of June- I can hardly wait!

I also noticed this past weekend that the bees are bringing in what looks like pollen.  I don't see anything green or blooming so who knows where this is coming from.  As you can see in the following photos the pollen baskets are small, but they are definitely there.

Interestingly, I read a blog today, which is kept by an experienced beekeeper in Minnesota, stating that what beekeepers think is pollen coming in lately is actually dust from bird feeders and deer feeders.  So, are my bees bringing in dust instead of pollen?  Maybe.  Or maybe there is a tree with catkins in the area that begins producing pollen earlier than other more obvious pollen sources.  Hazelnut trees, for example, bloom and pollinate in the middle of winter.

What do my bees have on their legs?  The world may never know- but they sure are fun to watch!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Hive Has Arrived

It's here!  I ordered a new hive from Betterbee and it finally arrived.  This new hive will become the new home of a 3 pound package of Russian hybrid bees I have coming from Honey Bee Genetics in Vacaville, CA.
My other two hives are polystyrene (styrofoam) Beemax hives.  I ordered them when we first started keeping bees back in 2009.  I thought that the thick styrofoam would offer better insulation for the bees during our cold winters.  They have held up pretty well but are beginning to weather in some places.  I decided to go with a regular wooden hive this time as there are plenty of bees in the area that seem to do fine without the extra insulation of styrofoam, and I think wood will stand up to the weather a little better.

Anyway, the package of Russian hybrids will be arriving in mid April and will be moving in to this hive.  We are looking forward to having Svetlana join our little family.

If you have been following my blog you may already know that Virginia (one of the hives we started with in 2009) died out last fall and Georgia was left alone all winter.  Georgia came through the winter in good condition and still has a good sized cluster.  I am afraid we will be looking at another swarm if we do not do something with them.  So... I am going to step outside my comfort zone and attempt to split Georgia and start another colony in Virginia's old hive.

My plan will be as follows-  Probably sometime in April, when Georgia's population is booming and there is plenty of pollen coming in, I will take a few frames of bees, eggs, and brood from Georgia and transfer them to the empty hive.  Hopefully the queen will be transferred with those frames, but I am a miserable queen finder.  I have only been able to spot any of the queens a few times in the last few years.  Wherever the queen ends up she should continue laying eggs and the other hive should be able to use some of the existing eggs to produce a new queen for that hive.  Sounds easy enough, right?  I just hope I don't screw everything up.

The new colony, split from Georgia and living in Virginia's old hive, will be named Ida.  How did we come up with that name?  Well, this split will kind of be like a sister to Georgia, and Georgia O'Keeffe had a sister named Ida.  That works, doesn't it?

So if all goes well we will have Georgia, Ida, and Svetlana all living side by side in our backyard.  I hope they can all get along.

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