Monday, July 15, 2013

Prepairing for the Summer Dearth Ahead

Blackberries are over but I'm not sure they helped much this year.  The hives are all in a good place for the summer ahead and almost every hive has had at least one brood break.  If I had a need to build up or make more hives then now would be a good time to start planning.  However I'm happy where I'm at and just want to see the hives I have through the rest of the year and go into winter strong.  Yes it's time to think about winter planning.

So what have the bees been into if not the blackberries... at least in my tiny part of the world?  Well there are many other non-native and native plants in the neighborhood that are getting attention.  Most of the blackberry patches are in dry areas that don't benefit from gardeners watering and can't complete with nectar production.  I rarely saw honey bees on the small blackberry patches but have been seeing them all over these other plants.  Some are just coming into bloom and some are just finishing up, but here's a bit of what's getting their attention right now.

Oregano is just starting to come into bloom.


Lavatera × clementii (Tree Mallow) will bloom the rest of the summer.


Cotoneaster lacteus is very attractive to the bees, however *I* don't think the sweaty sock smell it has is as appealing.


Catalpa trees are in bloom.  They aren't are popular as some of the other plants blooming right now, but they get attention.


Santolina chamaecyparissus is blooming.


Crocosmia 'Lucifer' are in bloom and enjoyed by the bees.


I almost always see the bees collecting water from this bird bath and noticed their numbers dropped briefly during the peak of the flow around the end of June but interest has since returned.  I'm guessing with the surge in nectar it was the one time of year that there wasn't a need to bring water into the hive.

Moss acts like a water sponge and makes a safe spot for bees to land.


Yucca is not a native plant, but is common in gardens and is in bloom now.


Privet is filling the air with its strong perfume.  There are quite a few of these around the neighborhood grown as small trees or hedges and they are all buzzing with bees.  


Butterfly Bush (Buddleja davidii) is just starting to bloom as well.


Scotch thistle (Onopordum acanthium) is also in bloom.


American Chestnut (not to be confused with horse chestnut) provides pollen and nectar and has been blooming a couple weeks now.  There are several large and very old trees nearby and they make for a dark nutty honey.


Hive checks (7/3/2013)
Ballard Swarm
Did a quick check for the queen and the girls have mostly filled the donated combs with nectar, built two new ones and have taken half the syrup I gave them.  I didn't see a queen so I released the caged queen and they accepted her without any aggressiveness.  I didn't hear any piping so perhaps this swarm was queenless after all.

This is the caged backup queen.


They seem to like her.  She would be unmated at this point.


Icon Granddaughter hive.
Took a quick peak and couldn't find the queen or eggs and the youngest uncapped larvae looked about 6-7 days old.  I found two capped emergency cells and two attempts at cells.  I pulled all four of them out because I really don't think this hive is strong enough to be making queen cells and put in the queen from the queen castle.  I added her with her bees and comb and didn't see the need to cage her in this situation.  She hasn't started laying yet and we are just past two weeks from emergence now.

Hive checks (7/6/2013)
Plum Creek
The laying pattern is just so-so and could be better.  So far I'm not overly impressed with the early mated queens and while I think the hives built up at the right time there just aren't enough other hives far enough along in the area making drones for them to mate with at that time of year.  I guess I need to seed the area with early hives for next year.

Not perfect but not horrible either.


At least the nurse bees seem to be paying attention to her.


Architect Hive
The hive is building up well and starting to see the first signs that the brood nest is back-filling.  Added some empty bars to encourage them to draw new combs.

Looks like backfilling with the nectar flow.


Geek Hive
Saw the queen and her gold bands have darkened more.  She has a great laying pattern and saw several frames of brood.  Moved some empty worker comb forward for her to use.  The hive is mostly backfilled filled with nectar, pollen and honey from being queenless.  I'm wondering how her sister will do since she hasn't started laying yet and was raised in a smaller hive.

Nice solid pattern over several frames in this hive.


She looks a lot like her mother.


Rosemary Swarm
Fantastic laying pattern on this queen.  She is a little bigger and more filled out than the last time I saw her.  They have spread themselves thin and have filled most of the frames with solid brood and comb building has slowed down.  Gave them more syrup.

I really couldn't have hoped for a better mated queen.


Here's another frame (they all looked like this).  They have a honey arch and perhaps a few cells of pollen and then brood.  Lots of brood!


There are already a few new nurse bee's following her around.


This was the one frame that wasn't completely full of brood.  This was a donated comb where both sides are larger drone/honey comb sized cells and only the middle has worker sized cells.  I take this as a good sign that the hive knows what it needs and that's workers.


Ballard Swarm
They have made several new bars of comb and saw the queen, but no signs of laying yet.  They are storing syrup in comb yet I added more syrup to keep them building.

She looks mated.  Will have to wait and see how well.


Hive checks (7/13/2013)
Rosemary Swarm
Added more syrup, but no inspection.

Ballard Swarm
They are still building comb and filling it with syrup and nectar so I'm continuing to feed to keep comb construction going.  It looks like their rate is slowing but hopefully I'll get a few more good combs out of them before they switch to raising young.  Found newly laid eggs in cells so everything is looking to be moving in the right direction.

She has filled out nicely in the last week and looks more queen like.


Geek-Icon Daughter Hive
There was a small patch of brood from the original brood nest before I combined the hives.  It looks like she was off to a good start and just needed more bees which she has now.  The new queen has moved into the bigger brood nest left by the old queen and was filling in gaps.  I moved the brood nests together so they could concentrate resources.

Original brood nest.


She is just a tad lighter than her mom.


Geek Nuc
They are building up in the nuc and will soon run out of room.  Removed an older comb that they weren't using in the front that I suspect might be too toxic/diseased for them to prefer to use.

Three years and still going.


Rebels
Now I remember why I called these girls the Rebels.  They now have enough hive strength to be a little pissy again.  Not as bad as they could be but enough to be slightly annoying.  I actually was a little surprised to see the queen cutting back on brood on this inspection.  The main flow is over and a dearth is on the way so it makes since they would cut back but they have been playing catch up all season and it seems like they would want to keep going in build up mode.  I guess it's a good thing they are cutting back.  There are some drones close to emerging as well but not many and it doesn't look like they plan to make many more.

I saw the queen put her head into a cell for what I thought would be an inspection for egg laying potential but she stayed in there and it appeared that she might actually be drinking nectar by how her body was moving.  I've never seen a queen feed herself, but that would be the best way to describe what I think she was doing.  Another strange observation I noticed is that on average most of the bees in this hive are tiny.  I usually see workers of all sizes running around with natural comb but with this hive almost all of them are on the small size, however their comb cell sizes look to be in line with the rest.  I will have to take measurements next inspection to get a better idea of what might be going on here.  These bees definitely are different from the other hives.

I know I said she was cutting back and this looks pretty solid.  There just weren't as many full frames of brood this time.


Icon Daughter Nuc
I'll have to rename this hive I guess as there were no signs of the old (mother) queen anymore. The daughter is now being followed by nurse bees and I don't know what to make of the laying pattern as it's a patchwork of a failing queen and a young queen filling in.  Will wait and see what happens.  There are still signs of varroa and DWV in this hive.

She's a nice big queen.


Back to the bees,

- Jeff