Tuesday, September 25, 2012

First Days of Fall

Fall has officially arrived and before you know it the last traces of this summer like weather will be behind us and we will be back to cool rainy days.  Unfortunately for the girls this dry spell is killing their opportunities to get much of a nectar flow in the city.  There are a few avid gardeners out there that religiously water their flower beds but for the most part the flowers are looking pretty nectar dry.  It seems that new incoming nectar significantly slowed down around the third week in August and the girls have been trying to keep from digging into their honey stores since then. 

I'm seeing plenty of pollen coming in from the asters, dahlias and sunflowers but not much nectar.  Sedum is still blooming in some yards, but in others it finished up a couple weeks ago.  I haven't seen any knotweed blooms in the last week that looked to have any viable flowers left.  Crocus and mums are starting as well but I tend to ignore mums because people tend to buy the showy varieties with lots of petals that aren't useful to the bees.  As a general rule the best pollinator flowers are those with simple petal structures that are easy for the bees to access the nectar or pollen.

Collecting nectar from the Asters.

Here is an older girl on a beautiful late summer flower called Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Dark Knight'.  You can tell she is older by the missing hairs on her back and tattered wings.

Each Sunflower bloom provides lots of tiny flowers for the bees.

Sunflowers and blue skies really do occur in Seattle.

Look closely, this girl was caught in the act of combing polling off herself to add to the pollen baskets.

So many types and colors of Asters blooming.

The Korean Bee Tree is also popular late summer nectar source, but there aren't many around.

I have feed on almost all the hives right now to keep them going and hopefully help them build up stores for fall.  My two main concerns is they have a good population of winter bees and they have plenty of capped honey or syrup.  In addition to feeding I did a little late season balancing to give the weaker hives a little boost to help them raise a bit more brood before it really cools off.  I estimate we have 4-6 weeks of brood weather left and then it'll trickle off to almost nothing.   However this is only true for the younger queens with feed on the hives and I think the second year queens will probably shut down sooner.

Hive Checks (9/18/2012)

Queen Castle 2 - Slot 1
No signs of eggs yet, but the queen is still there.  Checked them to see if they still had sugar left because a few stubborn robbers are still coming to take the sugar slush that is now crystallized on the bottom.

Another full inspection looking for the queen or signs of her.  I can see where she would have emerged 2 weeks ago but otherwise nothing.  I'm guessing that she didn't return from her mating flight.  The girls are a bit pissy as I would expect from a queenless hive.  Pulled the queen from the Geek hive (grandma) and put her in a queen cage and introduced her to this hive.  The girls seemed very receptive to her and started feeding and fanning around her.  She'll stay in the cage for a few days just in case.

A short video of how the girls react to the new queen.  It's hard to tell but they are trying to feed her and her attendants through the cage.  If they were biting at the cage that would not be a good sign. 

Several girls also started fanning near the cage which is another good sign.  You can see the white Nasonov gland exposed near the end of her abdomen.

The Geek hive has dropped down significantly and there is almost no brood and very few larvae left.  Will pull all brood frames and merge the honey stores with a nuc.

Nuc 3
They have pretty much finished off their syrup and gave them a little more.  These girls are pigs with the syrup even though it's a small hive.

Hive Checks (9/22/2012)

Librarian Hive
Removed the Geek queen from her cage and she happily went down into the hive.  This was the original Geek hive and granted all goes well will be again.

The girls are fearless when it comes to protecting the hive.  This yellow jacket had barely touched down and was covered in guards.

Geek Hive
Removed the couple frames with queen cells they started and merged with the Northgate swarm.  Added syrup to help them back-fill gaps.  This hive picked up a lot of frames of honey that aren't capped, but they will also loose foragers due to moving the hive.

Engineer Hive
Moved the Icon daughter queen into the Nuc the Northgate swarm was in so they would pick up a boost from the foragers.

An interesting observation that stands out in this smaller hive is the drones are helping to keep the brood warm and they are more likely to buzz around to distract you when you open the hive.  Drones aren't a complete waste of space.

Engineers Nuc
Moved the Engineer Queen back into her original hive.  Kept the syrup on, but they have stopped taking it.

Queen Castle 2 - Slot 1
Moved the Librarian daughter queen into the Nuc that the Engineer queen was in so they would pick up a boost from the foragers.  This queen has started laying eggs.

Queen Castle 1 - Slot 3
Added a frame of brood from the Nuc 2 hive.  The hive is building up stores and numbers.

Nuc 2
This hive has built up quite a bit.  Took a frame of brood and replaced it with an empty comb.  Will likely take another frame in a week or two to help build up the smaller hives.  They don't need food, but added syrup to push them.

Nice solid brood frames with large honey arches going into fall.

Nuc 3
Added more syrup (I might have to call these girls hoarders or something).  Lots of brood and stores.

Hive Checks (9/23/2012)

There are a lot of healthy looking fat bees in this hive and they are still raising brood. Add syrup to help them with back filling.

Added syrup.

In other news, Washington just had their first confirmed case of the zombie fly in honey bees.  The zombie fly is not new to Washington and until recently was only known to attack bumble bees and some wasp species.  The hive it was found in is actually a relative of the Sand hive.  Here's hoping this is something new to science but not honey bees.

Back to the bees.

- Jeff


  1. Hi Jeff!
    Just stumbled on your site. Great work here! I'm in my second year with my first hive— a top bar hive on the east west side of QA. I've been wondering about the dark color of the majority of the honey that my bees have made. Do you have any ideas on what the sources are that make it so dark? It looks like molasses in the jar.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Thanks for saying hi! The dark molasses colored honey you are seeing is likely from Knotweed. Most beekeepers will harvest early August to get the light Blackberry honey and then let the hives store the Knotweed for winter. Some beekeepers charge a premium for the dark honey for it's complex flavors and good baking qualities.

      - Jeff