Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sunshine and Blackberry Blooms

A successful honey harvest relies on mother nature giving us a good weather during the key plant blooms.  A week ago we were getting exactly what we needed - rain.  We had a few weeks of dry weather early in the month and the hives picked up a lot of stores when they usually would be in a dearth.  However dry is not a good way to start the blackberry flow and the recent rain was really needed to get the bushes in good shape to produce nectar rich blooms.  Now we are two days into the start of a nice sunny streak and the blackberries blooms are popping.

With all this talk about Blackberries you might think it's the only thing the girls are interested in when in fact they are not.  There are LOTS of plants coming into bloom that the bees are working to bring in a good variety of flora sources.  Around the the Queen Anne neighborhood there are a lot of Black Locust trees planted (and wild) that are in bloom which can also produce a decent amount of nectar.  Usually the Locust trees bloom just before the Blackberries but this year many plants are coming early so both are in bloom right now.

Thymus serpyllum is always very popular with the girls.

Cistus cobariensis is a good early summer pollen source.  I usually see them passing up older flowers to try and get into a newly opening flower to get the freshest pollen.

Rosa nutkana is a native to the area and also produces colorful rose hips in fall.

California poppy (Eschscholzia californica).

Catmint (Nepeta) is another bee magnet.

Japanese Snowbell tree (Styrax japonicus) is very attractive to bees.

Lupine is a native that is more popular to bumble bees.

Black locust trees are in bloom and can produce a lot of nectar if you have several nearby.

Sage is also very popular right now.


It's not just bees that like nectar, here is a Western Tiger Swallowtail on some pink Centranthus ruber.

Hive checks (5/25/2013)
Plum Creek
No signs of the queen or queen like activity and I suspect they dispatched her.  They got a frame of brood with queen cells from the Icon Daughter Nuc.

Finally the queen has started laying.  Found capped brood and lots of eggs.  The pattern looks good.

This is a pretty good start for having nothing last inspection.

Icon Daughter Nuc
Everything looked to be in good shape, but found two queen cells together on a frame.  I've noticed that when I move hives and foragers go into a nearby hive they sometimes make queen cells.  I took that frame out and gave it to Plum Creek and will wait to see what their next move is.  I hadn't inspected the Granddaughter hive yet otherwise I would have put them in there.

Icon Granddaughter Hive
I didn't see the queen and there are no signs of queen like activity.  I suspect they dispatched her.

Saw the queen and she is still small.  No signs that she has started laying yet, but she seemed more queen-like than a virgin queen.  There wasn't a good frame of eggs I could steal from the Sand hive to give them as a backup.

The new queen is getting some attention and has workers following her around and feeding her.

The queen has been busy at work building the hive back up and everything looked good.  The queen should have more frames laid out in the next week that I can use if needed in the Surf hive.

She was busy inspecting a cell here and some rude beekeeper took a picture.

Hive checks (5/26/2013)
Icon Granddaughter Hive
Placed two capped queen cell in here from the club apiary.  Not sure how viable they will be but the club hive had several cells and I removed two of the weaker ones so there is less chance of them creating an after-swarm.

Quick check through the hive and everything looked good.  With a big hive like this you can tell that the rain from the last few days is taking it's toll and many frames that had nectar back-filled are now freed up again.  Also seeing the rate of new comb production slowing down.

Here's a short video clip of the activity I saw during the cool rainy days last week.  The hives in my yard only get an hour or so of direct sunlight a day so it's something to think about for people that say bees can't flourish without full sun here.

Hive checks (6/2/2013)
Plum Creek
The cells they got last week were opened but I couldn't find a queen or signs of a queen.  It was a nice day and perhaps I caught them while she was out on her mating flight or perhaps the old queen is hiding somewhere?

Icon Granddaughter Nuc
Perhaps the queen in here was also out on a mating flight today.  Both cells were opened but no queen was to be found in the hive.  There wasn't enough of the cells left to determine if they were torn down or if a queen emerged.

Slowly growing.  They are every so slightly bigger every time I look and they actually have some new stores of pollen and nectar now.  I'm thinking the cold nights a week ago didn't do them any favors but they should be picking up with the nice weather.

She stands out as she moves around.

Icon Daughter Nuc
Found a single supersedure cell just starting again.  I had removed it last week and put it in Plum Creek, but this week I left it and the queen.  My plan is to let them cap the cell this time and next week put the queen in another hive if I still can't find queens in either nuc.  If she is failing perhaps she will last long enough to get another few cells going in another hive or help to draw out the young queens. Either that or do nothing and see what they do with her.

There is some reflection in the royal jelly towards the top of the picture but if you look carefully you can see the larvae in a "C" shape floating in the center of the cell.

The hive is growing and they have a good amount of brood on the way.  With the good weather they should build up nicely in the next few weeks.

For a queen that took her time to get going she is laying well.

The hive is full of bees and there are eggs everywhere.  The queen was actually looking a little thin and I found a single uncapped queen cells with a larvae floating in a pool of royal jelly.  I moved the queen to a nuc per the cut-down split I was planning.  I was surprised to only see one queen cell made and am wondering if they are thinking supersedure instead of swarm cells.

Hive checks (6/3/2013)
Saw the queen and she has filled out and is larger than her mother now, but no eggs yet.  Actually I did see a single egg but one egg doesn't cut it.  I added a frame of eggs and young larvae to the hive to see what they do with it.

I've seen several questions this week from people on how many drones are too many.  Well something that occurred to me as I was finishing the inspection and getting to the last two frames at the hive entrance was that they were mostly covered in drones.  For a new beekeeper this is where the mature drones usually hang out and if you were only looking at the frames by the entrance you might think you had too many drones (or if those were the last frames you looked at the impression might be stronger).  Anyway something to consider next time you are looking at a hive.

This must be the "guy" section.

The hive is building up slowly and they had several frames of brood on the way and lots of eggs.  They seem like they are in good shape based on the colder weather we just had a week ago.

Blackberry is here.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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