Friday, June 29, 2012

Summer Storms = Grouchy Bees

The weather has been mostly cold and wet this year and the sun hasn't made much of an appearance in the Northwest as opposed to the record breaking heat the rest of the country has been getting.  So that leaves us with light hives and grouchy bees.  The girls actually fly in this gloomy weather, but unfortunately the rain washes away the nectar and pollen so there isn't much for them to find.

Collecting nectar from a Senecio shrub.

I've noticed that the girls like to get pollen from flowers that are just opening and nectar from flowers that are a bit older.  I think some flowers take time to build up enough nectar to get the bees attention.

Nectar from Red Hot Poker flower.

Giant Tiger Lily blooming.

The Linden trees have started to blooming in some areas and if the weather allows for it the girls might be able to collect some surplus.  With the blackberry flow wrapping up many hives just haven't been able to collect much so far this year.

Linden tree flowers near the Arboretum. 

Something else that bees will sometimes do is clump up at the front of the hive entrance.  This is called bearding and they do it for several reasons.  Typically they do this when they are hot as a way to cool down the hive and to improve the ventilation. They might also do this if they start getting cramped for space or in this case due to a weather change.  After weeks of crappy weather we actually got 3 beautiful days in a row and the bees were going crazy and then like a slap in the face we got another downpour (almost an inch of rain).  It's hard to tell, but I was getting wet under an umbrella when I took these pictures and some of the girls were still flying anyway.

It is called bearding because it kind of looks like a beard on the hive.

The roof is keeping them dry and they are leaving room to get in and out.

While bearding might look like swarming it is not and doesn't mean they are going to swarm.  However it is something you would typically see on a healthy hive so it stands to reason if they are doing well it would be best to keep an eye on them because healthy hives will swarm eventually if they run out of space.  In talking with several local beekeepers bearding apparently was fairly common here last Friday when the storm blew in.

Hive checks (6/24/2012)

Didn't see the queen but saw eggs.  Comb building is still stalled.  Lots of brood and they have a big population.  Low on stores.  Still have feed left, and have taken about a quarter gallon since it was put on.  They have been fanning at nite to dry nectar.

Saw the queen, eggs, and lots of brood.  Comb building is still stalled.   Lots of brood and they have a big population.  They have a decent amount of stores left.  They have been fanning at nite to dry nectar.

Nuc 5
No sign of a queen, might have seen a egg or two, but nothing that stands out.

Nuc 2
Queen is laying, found eggs and brood!

Queen is laying, found eggs and brood. Good amount of syrup stored and they are building up pollen reserves.

One of the queen cells had already emerged!  Ironically it was the one I was going to harvest for a nuc.  She cleaned up the others so there was nothing to harvest.  I would estimate she emerged the day before based on the cleanup of the other cells.  They have started taking syrup.

They are doing great and building up quickly now.  They are taking a lot of syrup.  Identified the beetles I found and they are carrion beetles which aren't a pest of the bees.  Fortunately my eyesight is better than the macro on my camera to see the distinguishing details.

I think they were attracted to dead bees or the syrup in the hive.

Hive checks (6/25/2012)

Found the queen and saw eggs and brood.  Besides the fact that this hive is smaller than the others the brood pattern actually looked decent and I didn't see any signs of varroa issues.  Without the knowledge of previous inspections it wouldn't be obvious just looking at them during this inspection that this was a weak hive.  They have a lots of stores and pollen surplus built up as well. 

Another swarm

To add to an already busy week of beekeeping I caught a swarm on 6/27/2012.  I got the call in the afternoon by a worried home owner that said these girls had been in her yard all day and wanted them to get to a safe place.  As it turns out they most likely swarmed from a hive across the street that was setup only three months ago.  That hive also had bees in it so it must have built up quickly.

As far as swarms go this one was fairly small and I wasn't able to spot a queen .  I suspect based on the size that there is a virgin queen in there somewhere.  It is also odd they were balled up in the grass under an apple tree and I suspect they might have started on the branch and fell down.  I'll check them again in a few days to try and find a queen.

Put down comb to attract them which seemed to work well.

Most of the girls are in, but there are a few stubborn ones that didn't want to leave the grass.

The long range forecast is predicting summer to start on July 5th... which is sort of a Seattle joke with a bit of truth.  More often than not it actually seems to be the case.

- Jeff

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