Monday, April 14, 2014

Spring Build-up and Drone Maturity

Spring is marching along and we now have an abundance of flowers in bloom with cherry wrapping up and maples at their peak.  On top of that we've had several nice days of weather in a row which really gets the girls moving.  When there is an abundance food coming into the hive there is an opportunity for strong hives to try and swarm, and I've already heard of a few reports.

What I find interesting about these early swarms is that based on my observations I think they are unlikely to be rewarded for such a risk.  It is still a bit early for successful queen mating with the first wave of drones still a week or more away from sexual maturity and nice weather spotty at best.  Perhaps they might get lucky with rolling the dice, but I would think Mother nature would punish such behavior.  I'd be curious to get a peak into some of these early swarm hives to see how their drones are looking.

This girl is working scotch broom, another invasive weed.

Sweet cicely is in bloom.  This is one of those older forgotten herbs that doesn't find a place in modern herb garden for some reason.

Bleeding hearts (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) are blooming and are popular in woodland gardens even if they are not our native version (Dicentra formosa).

Leopard's Bane (Doronicum orientale) starts blooming early in the season.

Spanish bluebells are just starting to bloom and provide pollen and nectar.  

Vinca minor is putting out more blooms now.

Silver dollar plants (Lunaria annua) are in bloom.

Columbine or Aquilegia are just starting to bloom and do well in woodland gardens.

Hive checks (4/12/2014)

They are building up quickly and had a few drones moving around and more on the way.  They are using about 60% of the hive at this point and there were some signs that they might be back-filling a bit and had a surplus of pollen stored.  I also noticed some practice queen cups showing up.  I added one empty bar to see if they would start building comb with the light flow that's going right now.

The queen is looking well cared for.

My what big eyes you have.  These drones still have a couple weeks from emerging before they are sexually mature to mate.

The broodnest is about the same as the last time I looked at them and they are being fairly conservative in building up and only using about 25% of the hive.  I did see a few bees with DWV and I suspect that is contributing to the slower buildup pace.

The punk bees are out, or what I call punk bees for their distinctive pollen marks.  This is not paint some researcher put on the bees, but rather it's pollen.  The pollen is positioned in a flowers in such a way that when the bee enters the flower the pollen gets deposited onto the back of the bees thorax.  I'm not sure which flower is out right now that does this, but at one time had heard it was horse chestnut.  However I don't believe that is actually the source anymore because it is far too soon for those to be in bloom.  Another reason I don't think it's horse chestnuts is that they have both reddish and yellow pollen and I've never seen this marking in any pollen color other than yellow or cream.  I've also heard jewel weed is the source and have seen matching pictures, but it's too early for that as well.  Another theory I've heard is that it's from flowers that get pollen all over the bees body and that's the only area they can't clean well, but I don't believe that either because I know they can clean around their head & eyes and and you can clearly see grains of pollen in those areas.  I also only see this until June and then it doesn't show up anymore.  Perhaps one day I'll find this mysterious flower or someone that can ID the pollen source from a sample. 

Standing out in a crowd.

Looking for space to lay eggs.

They have good numbers and lots of activity.  They are using about 50% of the hive and I found the queen laying eggs outside of the broodnest area on old honey combs that were empty.  Usually you don't find the queen on the first frame you look at in the back but if that's where there are empty cells left then it makes sense she would go there.  I did see some sign of backfilling but not like the Rosemary hive.  Most concerning was I did see more bees with DWV on this inspection which may be an indicator they aren't going to be able to knock it down quickly and I will need to keep an eye one them that they don't start to collapse.  This hive has always appeared to be more resistant to issues so I'm curious to see how they do with this outbreak.

Queen with her entourage making an effort to expand the broodnest.

You can see that there is pollen and nectar backfilled into the center of the broodnest in this photo.  If this was mostly nectar and repeated on other frames I would take steps to prevent swarming.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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