Sunday, March 25, 2012

75% Winter Survival

We had a bit of nice weather to look in the hives on Sunday and unfortunately confirmed two hive losses for the season.  Nuc A and the Frats are both gone.  These were the two hives that stood out in fall because they wouldn't take sugar syrup to store.  I gave them frames of honey and sugar from other hives going into winter in hopes of shoring them up.  Looking through a dead hive is quite a strange experience in that the hive appears frozen in time.  The only thing I can compare it to would be a sci-fi space movie where they find an abandoned space station and the crew is dead but preserved like the day they died by the vacuum of space.
  • Nuc A had several pounds of dry sugar but no honey or pollen left.  This hive had one of the combs I filled with dry sugar, and it had about 50% of the sugar left in the cells.  I'm guessing they couldn't get enough water to dissolve the sugar or didn't have enough bees to stay warm with their small cluster size since some of the cluster was on the sugar comb over sugar filled cells.  This hive failed sometime in February during the cold spell. 
  • The Frats were showing strong activity just a few weeks ago and it appears that they built up too fast and the recent cold snap cut them off from getting food.  There was no sugar or honey left on combs, just bees and brood they were trying to raise.  There was several pounds of sugar just on the other side of the follower board that they didn't touch due to the extended week of cold when they were clustered around the brood.  I suspect the increased activity I was seeing previously might have also been a sign of desperation.
The Librarians, Geeks, Nuc B and Nuc C all looked to be in good shape with some stores left.  Basing their status on what I saw on the last few frames I decided that all except the Librarians had less than 10 days of food reserves in place and wouldn't survive an extended period of time if they couldn't forage.  I started all hives on 1:1 sugar syrup.  The Librarians are being feed to prevent a robbing situation since the other hives will have an attractive food supply close by.  I am still concerned that Nuc C isn't on par with the other three, but it's too soon to tell what that means.  The difference is the other three are CA genetics, and Nuc C is local genetics.

Feeding now also aligns nicely with two big food sources and signs of spring.  The plums are finishing and cherries (fruiting) and dandelions are starting up this week (late for this time of year).


The girls are checking out the Oregon Grape at the park.  I saw a bumble bee as well.  Likely a queen looking for a home.

Red Current

Several bees have found some minerals (salts) in the base of the flower pot.  My sugar syrup mix has a touch of mineral salt in it so I'm curious if this stops now.

Entrance activity.  You can see the pollen coming in.

Close up.  The girls didn't seem to care if was holding a camera an inch from their entrance.

This tired girl didn't make it to the entrance hole and landed a bit lower.  Too exhausted to jump back into flight she proceeded to walk up the face of the hive.  I like this shot as she walks by a bolt which gives you a perspective of just how hard these girls work to bring back tiny amounts of food to make new bees and ultimately honey.

Hopefully April will be a good month and the girls will have good weather to collect the maple bloom.  This will be the first big flow of the year, but only if the weather allows for it.

- Jeff

Sunday, March 18, 2012

2 Days Till Spring

Spring is only two days away and hopefully we will be leaving old man winter behind... he's been a bit moody this year.

The "New Geeks" now have a real name... the Librarians (lead by queen Marcia).  The name seems fitting for something the Geeks created.  If you are wondering what they are doing when the sun isn't out... here's a peak inside the entrance.  A guard will quickly come out to make sure you aren't up to trouble.  The other hives have been retreating back behind the comb, but these girls are just waiting for any break in the weather they can get to fly.  Nuc B (a sister queen) is smaller but has the same behavior.  They were out yesterday just after the snowfall when it had warmed up to 41F. 

Also for everyone trying to follow the blog I think I have the settings right now so you can enter an email or your blog reader ID to follow updates.

- Jeff

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bee's Eager for Spring & What's Blooming

Spring is coming... and you can smell it in the air.  The bees know it too and have been out this weekend in this sunny but cold weather (it is hovering around 42F with a light breeze).  They appear to be staying close to home and exploring everything.  Quite often they are in the dirt or licking water off plants, but they are also bringing in nectar and pollen.  Mostly light yellow or whitish.

Here's a shot of one that decided to rest on me for a moment.

Since it's still a bit cold for a full inspection I can only comment on entrance activity.  The New Geeks and Nuc B have a lot of activity.  Nuc C and the Old Geeks are a notch down in actively but still showing good activity and then the Frats are just a nudge below them.  I have not seen activity in Nuc A on the last few nice days and I think they may be gone.  I would have predicted Nuc A and the Frats to be winter losses based on their Fall behavior and lack of eagerness to take feed.   I am however a bit surprised that Nuc C is not on par with the New Geeks and Nuc B as they went into fall very strong.  Without an inspection I'm not reading too much into the differences until I have more data and can see what they do in a few months.

So what's blooming around the house?


Skunk Cabbage



Vinca Minor

English Boxwood

Evergreen Clematis

Oregon Grape




There's a lot more stuff blooming in the neighborhood, but this is a sampling of what's close to home for the girls.

- Jeff

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Early March Activity

The weather warmed up to 52F today and the "new geeks" where out in force when the sun was shining.  All the other hives, except Nuc A, had good activity as well bringing in pollen.  Short video clip below.

The weather says we should be to 55F tomorrow so hoping to dig into a few hives to see what's going on.

- Jeff