Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tax Day Bees

Actually I'm a few days late on the weekend report because I was busy on far less interesting things like doing my taxes.  While I was busy doing taxes the bees were taking advantage of the nice weather and getting into everything.

Pollen is balled up on her legs to take back to the hive and in the process she gets it all over herself.  The surplus pollen particles she doesn't ball up get transferred to the next flower for pollination.

The maples are also coming into bloom this week and are a feast of pollen and nectar for the bees... if the weather allows for them to fly.  Being on the side of a hill there is a lot of staggering between the rates that the trees are blooming at so there isn't a huge burst of something all at once and then it's gone.  This helps the bees take advantage of more of the forage and gives them a better variety of sources.  We still have a few wild cherries that haven't opened yet.

Maple bloom

Hive report (4/14/2012)

The Geeks are doing really well.  They had double the brood form the last inspection and had cleaned up all the old dead-out frames I gave during the last inspection and filled them with eggs.  The pollen stores were also significantly increased.

Nuc B is getting renamed to the Engineers and was moved into the old Frat hive.  As a general practice I don't name nucs until they have survived the winter (Nuc C will get a new name soon with a different naming system because she is from a different queen line).  Nuc B is very much like the Geek queen and had filled 6 frames with brood and I found her laying in the last bit of space by the follower board.  Since she had maxed out the nuc she was moved into a full hive body so they have room to expand.  I plan to use the Engineers or Geeks to create more nucs this year.  

Example brood comb from the Engineers is below (comb is reversed upside down for inspection which means the top of the picture is the bottom of the comb).  
  • The very top 5-6 rows has nectar and some pollen/bee bread.
  • Below the nectar you can see large drone cells that stick out from the comb.
  • In the middle of the comb you can see darker soon to emerge brood (17-20 days).
  • The lower portion has more recently capped brood cells (8-10 days). 
  • At the very bottom of the comb you can see the white larvae (C shapes) in soon to be capped cells (5-9 days).

Example brood comb in different stages.

Nuc C is still building up nicely, but they aren't taking off like the other hives.  They have 4-5 full frames of brood in different stages.  The queen does have room to lay but is not doing so.  This hive seems really fussy about flying in "Seattle" weather and they really only get active when the sun is out around 55F +/- 2F which we really haven't had much of lately.  I did see increased pollen stores in this hive as well.

Librarians still have a spotty laying pattern and signs of high varroa levels.  They have twice the level of brood of the other hives, and apparently the queen has no limits on the brood nest size and had laid about 20 frames of the hive.  She even went beyond the empty comb at the back of the brood nest I placed on previous weeks inspection by several frames. I also saw a practice queen cup, which I suspect is a result of her being so far away on one side of the brood nest.  I pulled several drone cells and found varroa in them and did a powdered sugar application to see if it helps keep the problem under control.  My plan to split this hive soon in hopes of breaking the brood cycle and knocking back the varroa.

Less than week old comb being built.

I also measured the brood comb and was surprised on how little regression there has been in the natural comb cell size with an average of 5.3mm.  Small cell comb is considered to be 4.9mm and standard foundation is around 5.4mm.  I will be taking more measurements in each hive this spring and trying to encourage them to regress more.

Comb measurement (measured 10 cells for average).

So far this week the weather has been rainy/misting and the bees have been staying in.  Hopes for a weekend inspection are slim, although we might get a sunbreak. 

- Jeff


  1. What is varroa? I'm worried about my hive!

    1. Varroa is a mite, and a relatively new pest of the honey bee (introduced in the 80's from Asia) they have killed many hives across the US. If it doesn't kill the hives directly it can also act as a vector for spreading other bee viruses which can finish the job. The bees are slowly building resistance to the mites, but they have a long way to go. There are some pictures of the nasty little things at the below Wikipedia link:


      It appears that the hive is getting the problem under control which may or may not be due to the powdered sugar treatments. I'm watching it closely and have some other approaches I will take as soon as the weather allows for splitting and queen rearing (in about 2 weeks).