Sunday, April 22, 2012

4 April Weekends Without Rain

Four nice weekends in a row is something that doesn't usually happen until July in Seattle, but the unthinkable has just happened.  If next weekend turns out nice as well, it'll be the first time on record that we have had rain free weekends in the month of April.  Nice weekends also make it easy to get in regular hive checks!   The nice days in the weather pattern also means there is a lot of stuff blooming right now with the maples being the primary source of food.  When there is enough of something blooming that the hive can create a surplus it is considered a "flow".  Maples produce both pollen and nectar, and about every 3-4 years the weather around here allows for the bees to create a surplus of maple honey.

Collecting water from the "bird" bath.


With the maple flow going strong, the hives have also started making lots of drones.  Drones are the male honey bee that are produced from an unfertilized egg and they don't do "work" in the hive.  The main function is to mate and eat surplus food the workers bring in... yeah not much of a plus.  However mating is a big thing in the bee world for spreading genetics around and a queen will mate with 15-20+ drones.  She will mate within a week of emergence by going on 1-3 flights and never again for the rest of her life.  The more drones the queen can mate with the more desirable she will be to the hive and the better genetic diversity it will have.

Drones are bulky and have big eyes to help them find queens.  They also don't have stingers.


In addition to the maples there are several other flowers coming out right now that add variety to the food sources available.  There are also still some cherries blooming and the apple tree buds are just about to open.

Strawberries


Tulips


Silver dollar plants (taller purple), Blue bells (light blue), Grape hyacinths (blue) and a few dandelions.


Hive checks (4/21/2012)

The Librarians have expand the brood nest by 3-4 frames and have multiple frames of drones coming.  At this point they have brood on almost every frame in the hive except the first and last frames which have bee bread.  I'm not seeing much surplus nectar or pollen being stored like I am in the other hives and this is a slight concern.  I am however seeing signs of improvement towards varroa and DWV and far fewer capped drone cells had varroa in them on this inspection.  They appear to be on the road to getting the issue under control and they were treated with powdered sugar again to help in that process.  The brood pattern is still not to be desired and I did see more practice queen cups.  I also took more cell measurements and found some frames in the 5.05mm to 5.1mm range.  For a hive full of bees they still aren't working very hard to build comb and the frame I put in two weeks ago is only half done.

The Engineers are moving right along and I am seeing a lot of orientation flights going on as more bees prepare to become foragers and leave the hive to collect food.  They also cleaned up the last of the old dead-out frames from the Frat hive and the frames and hive look as good as new.  The queen has a solid laying pattern and has eggs everywhere she can get them.  They have some drones coming as well and are storing surplus nectar and pollen.

The Geeks are starting to really take off and they seem to be ready to start drawing comb.  Much like the Engineer hive the frames have a solid brood pattern and they have a few drones on the way as well.  I added spacers to the front of the brood nest to try and get them to draw the frames out.

Nuc C is doing well, they got a sight boost of foragers from the Engineer hive that work harder in the cooler/rainy weather.  When I moved the Engineer hive last week some foragers bumped over a few inches to Nuc C instead of re-orienting to the bigger hive.  The frames are full of eggs and they also have a surplus of pollen/nectar.  This is a hive I have slated to move to a sunnier/warmer location after the maple flow that should help it take off.

- Jeff