Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Bees

After several weeks of cooler rainy weather we had a bit of sunshine Sunday and the girls were clearly happy to be out working.  The hives were doing orientation flights and bringing in lots of orange and pale yellow pollen.  In this area the orange is likely from Asters or Dahlias and the pale yellow is from ivy.  The girls will fly in the cooler weather and they have to be careful to not let themselves get chilled, which will leave them stranded without a way to warm up and fly back to the hive.  They also need to stay alert for wasps looking to take advantage of tired bees.

The hives are ready for winter and are around their winter cluster size and I won't be disturbing them much in the coming months.  I do plan to periodically check in to make sure they still have food, especially around early February when they are most likely to be at risk of starving.  Granted there isn't much I can do in a top bar other than to move a honey or sugar frame directly next to the brood nest or cluster as a last resort.  They should continue to raise ever smaller patches of brood in November and on nice days will fly to collect water or any pollen that's out there.  As the nights get colder they also seem to really bring in the propolis to seal up the hive against drafts and pests.

Resting briefly after bringing back a haul of pollen.  

Hummingbirds love the hardy fuschia blooms, and the bees only seem interested in the pollen.

On a recent trip to Yakima, WA to visit family I was talking with my grandfather about the family apple orchard and what they do for pollination.  In addition to planting pollinator trees at the ends of rows they also rotate varieties between rows to increase the odds bees will visit two trees of different varieties and cross pollinate the flowers. He showed me a pollen tray he adds to the hives entrances loaded with apple pollen.  The bees walk through the pollen on their way out of the hive and get a foreign variety of apple pollen to the area which will improve the odds to cross pollinating.  It's an interesting idea and I can see how the bees would get a light coat of pollen on the way out if they were on a nectar trip.  However I'm not sure what would keep them from just collecting all the pollen out of the tray and taking it back into the hive.  I'm curious to check them out in action this spring.

Bigger tastier apples are the rewards of cross pollination.

Hive checks (10/28/2012)

Plum Creek
They have several frames of brood and continue to build up slowly.  They didn't do much with the syrup I gave them and I pulled the excess out and tightened up the follower board.

They had a small amount of syrup left.  Removed the syrup and tightened up the follower board.  They have a good amount of honey stored and I pulled a frame of honey.  Unfortunately they are showing signs of DWV virus and if it's anything like what the Geeks had I think it will be unlikely they will make it till spring.

Gluttons Nuc
They finished off their syrup and I gave them leftovers from the other hives.  Their numbers look good and I'm curious if they will finish the leftover syrup this late in the season.

Icon Daughter Nuc
They look good and are still raising brood.  The boost of foragers to this hive has really made the difference. While I can't assume that this queen only lays darker bees I do know that the hive only had light worker bees and a handful of dark bees when merged.  You can see the number of darker bees that she has produced in the last 5 weeks vs the lighter forager bees that are likely left over from the Rebel hive.  They are still allowing drones in this hive as well.

Even a tiny queen can produce a nice solid brood pattern.

Librarian Daughter Nuc
There was some syrup left and I pulled it out and tightened up the follower board.  They have brood, but their numbers are less than ideal for a winter cluster.

They also finished the syrup they had and I gave them some of the leftover syrup.  They have good activity and numbers and seem to have picked right up with the Geek queen.  No inspection.  I found two wasp queens in hibernation under the cover waiting for spring to start new colonies.  Unfortunately for them they picked a bad location to hide out for the winter and got introduced to the hive tool.

They finished the syrup they had and I also gave them some of the extra to see if a bigger hive would still take it.  They have good activity and numbers.  No inspection.

They had good activity and they appear to have built back up.  No inspection since I pulled their syrup and tightened up the follower board back in early October.

Ready to carve.

Back to the bees.

- Jeff

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