Monday, May 7, 2012

Punk Bees & Grass Wastelands

At some point every little girl grows up and they head out into the world to find themselves and hopefully don't get into too much trouble in the process.  Then there are a few that need to stand out and make a statement.  These are the ones that come home with pollen mohawks!

Showing off to her sisters

There are always a few girls that come back with mohawks when the Horse Chestnuts are in bloom.   Horse Chestnuts have multiple color flowers with some having yellow pollen and other having a brick red pollen.  When the bees climb up into the flower the pollen falls onto them creating this effect.

Horse Chestnut blooms

Lots of flowers right now.  Here is some gray-green pollen probably from crab apples.

Something I've noticed when talking with people that are trying to create bee friendly habitat is that most people have no idea how bad half the stuff they dump on their lawns really is for bees.  That perfect golf course grass is really a bee wasteland and there isn't anything useful for them there.  The insecticides and fungicides that you get from the store can be just as bad and often worse than the big tracker sprayers that farmers use.  So if you want bee friendly garden/yard just remember if it kills insects it can kill bees (weed killer isn't great either).

A little bit of bee paradise.  Clover, dandelions and lawn daisies

Hive checks (5/6/2012)


The varroa issue seems to be under control, but still seeing the random bee (mostly drones now) with DWV.    There are also a lot of healthy drones in the hive and I'm not seeing varroa on the uncapped drone cells like I was before.  There is very little capped worker brood in the hive and only a few frames with larvae/eggs for a hive this size.  However as a side effect the lack of brood is probably helping with the varroa issue.  There are a lot of bees in the hive, but their rate of growth seems to have leveled off.  This might be a sign the queen is cutting back to swarm, or continued signs that the queen was poorly mated and is running out of steam and needs to be replaced.   The plan it to pull cells from the Geeks or Engineers to make several new queens in the next two weeks to revitalize this hive.


This hive is taking off and they built 3 new combs in the last week.  I measured the newly built brood comb in this hive and the Geek hive and I'm getting measurements between 4.6mm and 4.8mm which puts them in the small cell range I've been looking for.  Once a enough new comb is built I'll move the old comb to the back of the hive for honey stores and cycle it out for harvest at the end of the season.  

I often have people asking what the insides of the hives look like.  Here's a shot of newly built comb (the edges are not complete yet and you can see the other combs in the opening of the hive that it came out of.  The hardest part of a natural comb hive is getting the bees to build on the bars.  They could create ANY design they wanted if not persuaded to stay on the bars.

Top Bar Hive (TBH) frame of natural comb

The little white specs at the bottom of the cells are 2-3 day old eggs.  Freshly laid eggs will be even harder to see as they stand upright.  The new comb makes it easier to see eggs as it allows the light to pass through the wax walls.  Once the cells have been used a few times the wax gets darker brown from the larvae cocoon casings and light doesn't pass through as easily.

Eggs in cells


This hive and the Engineers are staying on par with each other.  It's hard to not just type ditto, but that really is the case with these two.  I supposed if you had all identical hives it would make beekeeping a lot easier, but rarely does that ever happen.  Like any animal they all seem to vary quite a bit, but at the moment these mother/daughter hives are both performing well.

They are filling the new comb as fast as they can build it with a wide variety of pollen.

Nuc C

Lots of stored pollen and nectar in this hive and good activity.  They have three swarm cells capped which I will leave alone and let the best queen emerge, clean house and mate.  We are on day 8 or 9 and she will emerge in the next 7 days.  Fortunately it looks like we will be having nice weather for her arrival!

The queen cell is covered in bees to protect and keep it warm.

Nuc 1

The queen from Nuc C is doing well and reestablishing the brood nest and is laying eggs.  This hive should be able to build up pretty quickly and take advantage of the Blackberry flow.

Next 2 weeks I'll make nucs from the Geeks or Engineers and hopefully at that time Nuc C and Nuc 1 will be ready to move into big hives at the new apiary.

- Jeff


  1. Ok--I'm worried about Queen Marcia. I thought she might last a LITTLE longer!

    1. It happens sometimes. The queens die or just don't get well mated. This was a late season queen after a lot of hives had already kicked out their drones so she probably wasn't able to mate very well and the drones she did mate with didn't have good resistance genetics which can be seen in the varroa and DWV issues. Being so early in fall I couldn't assess her genetics or laying pattern so didn't know what to make of her until this spring. There is still hope for the hive and we will get a new Queen Marcia in place and get things back on track!