Sunday, April 29, 2012

1000s of Flight Paths

There is something amazing about seeing the organization of a bee colony extended beyond the combs.  It's like when you leave something sweet in the yard and then later find a trail of ants picking it apart.  There is the non-stop dusk-dawn activity at the hive entrance, and then on these semi-sunny days you can also see them flying in every direction as they head up and out over the trees.  You can catch them flickering in the sunlight as they zip through the air to some unknown destination.

Plenty of stuff blooming right now and you often only have to stop and wait a moment or two near a flowering bush/tree before you will see or hear them buzzing away.  I've often heard beekeepers say that the bees don't typically work rhododendron, however the giant old plants in the arboretum were just humming with the sound of bees today.  Bee's don't see color the same way we do, and blues are very appealing to them.  I can only image what it must be like for them to crawl into these big beautiful blue-purple flowers illuminated by sunlight.

On a Chinese Rhododendron collecting nectar and white pollen.


Collecting mounds of pollen from Oregon Mist


The cherries are pretty much wrapped up now and the apples are in full bloom.  Dandelions and Maples are also still going strong.   It's pretty safe to say spring has arrived in the last few weeks (better late than never).

On an Apple bloom


Hive Checks (4/29/2012)

The Librarians are finally starting to build comb.  Didn't powder sugar this inspection and in general the hive is looking healthier.  Lots of drones are hatching out and there is some worker brood on the way, but not as much worker brood as the other hives have right now.  Several practice queen cups present, but no larvae or eggs in them.  The hive is at 90% capacity and they are back-filling drone comb with nectar pollen.  The queen still has a spotty brood pattern.  Took three frames of pollen/brood and added to a nuc I made up with the Nuc C queen.  They took half a gallon of syrup this week.

Building new comb.  The bees hold onto each other to form a chain.  This is called festooning.


Picked this varroa off a drone.  They move around pretty quickly when they are on the bees.


Nuc C is at capacity which I've known for awhile.  The queen was laying on the first frame and I found a 2 day old egg in one of the many empty queen cups.  I moved the queen and two frames of brood into a new nuc with three frames from the Librarians.  This gives the Nuc C queen a new nuc with room to lay in and will break the swarm cycle.  While at the same time the bees in Nuc C have everything in place to raise a new queen.  They took half a gallon of syrup this week.

The Engineers are going great, and building comb quickly.  Very nice brood pattern and the queen was laying the first comb here as well but I'm not concerned for swarming just yet with all the new comb they are making.  They have drawn several new frames of comb and I added more bars to the brood nest to give them more space.  They took half a gallon of syrup this week.  

Much like the Engineers the Geeks are doing well and drawing out comb quickly.  There were several practice queen cups and added several bars to give them more room.  Watching this hive closely for possible swarming in the next few weeks.  This hive stores more pollen on average than all the other hives.  They also have lots of stored nectar, and are not touching syrup much.

The comb below they made in the summer of 2011 during the Knotweed flow that was half honey and half brood.  Now it's half worker brood and have drone comb.  This queen has a nice solid laying pattern.

The bigger raised cells on the right of the picture are the drone cells.


Yesterday while I was at the arboretum plant sale I stopped by the club apiary.  There were two strong hives and one that was down to just the queen and 4-5 attendants trying to stay warm on the cover of the hive.  They likely would not have made it another day.  We put together a nuc for her with bees form the stronger hive and caged her with the attendants.  Hopefully this will give her a second chance.  It looks like they ran out of food and couldn't build up enough to recover. She will stay caged for a few days for safe keeping while they get used to her scent.

The new bees are curious and licking the queen cage (a good sign).  


Tomorrow we are back to the rainy weather pattern.  Hopefully in 16 days from now we will get a sunny week with 60F+ weather for the new queens mating flight.

- Jeff