Monday, March 18, 2013

First Hive Checks of the Year

Spring is definitely around the corner and there are lots of plants coming into bloom making pollen and nectar for the bees.  So far this year our weather has been cold but consistent staying just above freezing at night and sometimes getting above 50F during the day.  Fortunately we haven't had any storms blow in and sit above us for a week or so which is good for their build up.  

Crocus flowers offer up pollen.


Snowdrops


Miniature daffodils


Daffodils provide pollen.


Dandelions are usually a signal for hives to build up and they offer pollen and nectar.


Preparing to fly on these cold mornings (less than 45F).


As part of an update to the site I'm building a plant list with descriptions so you will occasionally see something with a little more detail in the regular blogs as part of this effort and here's the latest.

The Oregon Grape (Mahonia) is an attractive evergreen shrub with holly like leaves is a native to the northwest.   Different species of Mahonia can be found throughout North and Central America and in Asia, which are also planted around the city and may be hard to distinguish from our native varieties.  The Oregon grape has clusters of long lasting yellow blooms in early spring that are very attractive to honey bees and other pollinators (especially bumble bees - if you are lucky you will likely see the queens flying).  They do well in full sun to part shade and make good accent plants for gardens or even as hedges.  They get their common name form the clumps of small "editable" bluish berries that form late summer.


Cornelian cherry blooms bring these trees to life with color before the leaves come out.


I previously talked about hazelnuts and their catkins (male part) but it was still too early to see the flowers.  Here's a shot of both the open catkins and the tiny purple flowers above them (you can click on the picture for a larger view).  

Once pollinated the flowers will produce the nuts on this Corylus avellana.


Indian Plum is another early blooming native bush.


Flowering Red Currant buds.


White cherry flowers.


Pink plum flowers


Late winter blooming Hebe


It seems that Parasitic Mite Syndrome has taken on a new name and is being referred to as “Idiopathic Brood Disease Syndrome” (IBDS), which kills off bee larvae, and has been found as the largest risk factor for predicting the death of a bee colony.  I'm quite sure this is what spread through the hives last summer and took out several of them into the fall.  Sadly I hope not to run into this one again this year, but if nothing else at least it has a better acronym than PMS.

Cluster too small to keep themselves and the queen alive.  The heavy mold is an indication they died months ago in fall.  You can still see eggs in cells that had no bees to keep them warm.


Hive checks (3/3/2012)

Checked both the Sand and Surf hives.  The Surf hive appears to be doing good and there are a lot of bees eating the dry sugar, but the Sand hive didn't make it.  It looks like the Sand hive died late fall.

Hive checks (3/9/2012)

It was another nice day and was able to get a little deeper into the hives to see how they were doing.

Geeks
They had very little food around the cluster and moved several frames just before and after to give them some insurance in case the weather turns bad for a few days.  Saw signs of brood.  The cluster was across 3-4 frames.  Found signs of a secondary cluster in the front that looks like it starved.  I'm guessing they formed two clusters and the front cluster was too small to survive.

Icon Daughter Nuc
Similar to the Geeks but they actually seem like there were a little better off.  Moved frames of honey closer to the cluster.  They also had nice frames of capped brood.

Brood in early March.


Rebels
I'm not as optimistic about these girls.  I didn't see any signs of build up and the cluster seems to be be only across 2 frames.  They were a little pissy as well and suspect they might be queenless.

Surf
This hive by far looks the best of them all.  They didn't need any food moved closer and were still sitting on top of a lot of honey around the brood nest.  The cluster size was also very healthy and they had strong activity at the entrance.  This hive is in a warmer spot and gets 30-40% more sun over the other hives.

Entrance activity in early March.


Back to the bees.

- Jeff