Sunday, June 1, 2014

May Flowers and Favorable Weather Conditions

Sadly May was a busy month and I wasn't able to find time to post any updates.  The bees have been building up and storing a good amount of honey so far this season.  With regular hive checks and some efforts to keep the broodnest open, so far I've been successful at suppressing the swarming instinct without needing to split hives.  I've found that June is a much better month to split and mate queens in my neighborhood.    

I wasn't able to get a video but if you happen to walk by a Papaver somniferum in bloom you might be able to see the bees rolling around in the pollen like they are intoxicated.  As you can see here this girl is trying to haul back as much pollen as she can carry.


Choisya or Mexican orange bloomed early May as well.


Wild Geraniums started blooming early May and will continue until it gets too dry for them.


Creeping thyme is a good nectar source.


Photinia is another May nectar source and is common in city neighborhoods.


Camas is a native bulb that blooms early May.


Some varieties of Lavender are already blooming.


Raspberries bloomed early in May.


Mock Orange or Philadelphus coronarius is a nectar source.


Black Locust is a good nectar source and can create a nectar flow.  We have quite a few of them around in the neighborhood.


 Raphiolepis umbellata provides nectar.


When thinking of bee plants it's easy to forget that flowering trees or shrubs can also be great food sources. Once established trees and shrubs generally hold up well during dry weather, when many flowers are wilting, and can reach water deeper in the ground which keeps their nectar output going. The Snowbell tree gets it's name from the snow white bell shaped flowers that hang downwards along it's branches.  This tree has a compact shape with dark green leaves and horizontally spreading branches.  The tree does well in partial sun and tolerates acidic soil and it does not complete with woodland plants in it's root area.  However it does need frequent watering if in a dry or high sun exposure location and also needs to be protected from wind.  You can propagate this tree using softwood cuttings in summer or from seed.

Japanese Snowbell Tree (Styrax japonicus)


Hive check (5/5/2014)
Rosemary Hive
Checked to see how they have been doing in the last week and there are no signs of backfilling and in fact I found a fair number of empty cells in the broodnest and not much open brood.  I suspect the hot weather last week followed by a storm caused them to shut down brood rearing for a few days.  Several queen cups present but all were empty.  Saw the queen and she looked healthy.

Cleaning up a little spilled honey/nectar.


The queen doing her thing.


Hive check (5/10/2014)
Luna Hive
They are now using about 70% of the hive and are backfilling.  Saw the queen and she looked good.  Lots of frames of drones coming as well and they have been storing a good amount of nectar in the last week.  Found 3 queen cups with eggs laid today in them.  I removed the cells and added a few empty bars to the broodnest and a couple bars of empty comb to the back of the hive for nectar storage.  My goal is to split this hive but ideally I want to delay the process 10-15 days.

Lots of nectar coming in.


 Looking for places to lay eggs.


Lots of drones.  Some beekeepers would cut out frames like this, I see these guys as mating stock for queens at my other locations.  So far this is my best hive and they have shown the ability to eliminate DWV.  In visual scans of my photos and during inspections I'm not seeing any signs of varroa on the bees either.  We need more genetics like these in the area.


Hive check (5/11/2014)
Ballard Hive
They are still building up slowly.  Some signs of backfilling, but overall a good amount of brood coming.  Not many larvae at the moment, but I suspect this coming week of sunshine will change that.  Using about 40% of the hive.  Didn't see any signs of DWV.  Added an empty bar for them to build.

She is a conservative queen and building up slowly.


Rebels
Still seeing a few bees with DWV, and those are mostly drones.  The hive is growing again and there is a good amount of brood coming.  Lots of orientation flights going on.  They are using about 75% of the hive now and are storing a lot of pollen and nectar.  Added a couple empty bars for them to build.

Here is a photo of a comb repair I did last year.  You can't really tell anymore but there is a window through the comb and the old comb was partially cut off because it was perpendicular to the bar.


The queen doing her thing.  It's nice to see she actually has attendants following her today.


Hive check (5/13/2014)
Rosemary Hive
Brood nest is backfilled but no signs of swarming yet.  Nectar and pollen stores are way up from a week ago.  They also did nothing with the empty bar I gave them last week and I adjusted it's placement.  The hive is 90% full now but they are not raising much brood.  I'm curious to see what this week of nice weather brings and if they will start building comb or decide they would rather make plans to swarm.

Pollen is coming in.  I like to see a lot of variety.


Hive check (5/17/2014)
Rosemary Hive
Opened the hive to pull brood frames and resources to make up two nucs.  Inspection was quick and saw the queen and that they have finally decided to start building new comb.  I pulled 6 frames total out of the hive.

Nucs
Made up two nucs with virgin queens in cages that emerged today.  The source was from an overwintered local hive.

Virgin queen with a couple of attendants to care for her.


Hive check (5/18/2014)
Luna Hive
Lots of nectar and they are starting to cap honey.  The color is darker and I suspect it's from the Hawthorn trees.  Hawthorn doesn't seem to be the first choice for them to work but it's very abundant so they can be picky about which tree they think is just right to work.  Lots of capped drone cells as well.  They were building a little crazy comb in the back and had built most of the two bars I gave them last week.  I gave them several more bars to work on.  No signs they were trying to build queen cells this time and should be good for another 10 or so days before I suspect the hive will be out of room.

Hive check (5/19/2014)
Nucs
Released the virgin queens in both nucs in the AM so they could potentially get out to fly today.  The South nuc might be a little too week and need more bees.

Hive check (5/20/2014)
Ballard Hive
They are still building up slowly and are now using about 60% of the hive.  Some signs of backfilling, but overall a good amount of brood coming and they were building comb.  Workers had cleaned cells further back in the hive for the queen to lay in but she seemed to be ignoring them.  Found a single cup with a freshly laid egg that I removed.  It's possible that they don't like the slow buildup either and they might be thinking of replacing her.  Will see if a new queen cell returns next week.  No signs of DWV were found.

Another shot of the queen.


Rebels
Only saw a few bees with DWV and most of those were drones.  Lots of backfilling but they are also building new comb.  They are using about 90% of the hive now.  They were fairly calm for a late day inspection.  Added another empty bar for them to start working on.

The queen is looking well cared for now.


A good variety of pollen coming into this hive.  It's unusual to see pollen stored in this hive as they usually use it as fast as it comes in.


Hive check (5/26/2014)
Luna Hive
No swarm plans yet, but they are running out of empty cells for the queen to lay in.  Saw the queen and she was busy looking for clean cells.  The drone population in this hive is peaking at about 25% of the population.  Yes this is higher than any of my other hives but they are still storing honey and the queen is still laying out frames in worker brood (at least any that aren't filled with honey).  They are building new comb on the bars I gave them as well.  Interestingly enough I think the high drone population has actually slowed them down a couple weeks on the swarm impulse given how backfilled the broodnest is at the moment.  Also I noted that drones were making an effort to cover capped worker brood to keep them warm while the workers were either collecting nectar/pollen or festooning to build comb.

There aren't many frames left where she can lay a patch of brood like this.  Notice all the drones on this frame.


The queen is looking in a cell to make sure it's clean.  I suspect this is why I sometimes miss her.


Rosemary hive
The hives growth seems to have slowed down a bit.  After just seeing a hive with a high drone count this hive seemed to be lacking in drones with less than 5% drones.  They aren't storing as much nectar/pollen, and are building comb slowly.

A nice shot of the queen.


Nucs
Well so far things don't look good.  Took a quick look and couldn't find either queen.  Granted new queens can be hard to find sometimes, but I'm pretty sure they weren't around.  However I have missed them before so will check again in a few days.

Hive check (5/30/2014)
Ballard Hive
They are still building up slowly and are using about 65% of the hive now.  The honey arches on several frames seemed a bit light compared to what I've been seeing in the other hives.  Saw the queen and she looked good, but she still isn't being very aggressive in laying eggs.

Rebel Hive
The queen died in the last week.  I found her in the very back of the hive on the bottom board.  They were making several emergency queen cells.  Some capped and some close to being capped.  Cells were on three separate frames so I split out two nucs to increase my mating odds.  Not sure why they didn't see whatever killed the queen coming and my only thought is that perhaps the viral load they've had this spring has taken it's toll on the queen.  Overall DWV was actually looking pretty good on this inspection with just a few bees showing signs.

This was the cell that got damaged on removing the frame.  I'd guess she was around day 11.


Here's a cell they haven't capped yet.


Usually you don't find the old dead queen, but sure enough I saw a bee trying to drag her out.


Hive check (5/31/2014)
Plum Creek
Had a swarm call today and picked them up.  It seemed average sized for a swarm and I'd guess is was about 3 pounds of bees.  It seemed smaller so perhaps it's a secondary swarm with a virgin queen.  Based on the bee size I can tell they came from a hive using foundation.

Looks bigger from this angle.  At least I could reach it without a ladder.


Hive check (6/1/2014)
Luna Hive
No signs of swarming and they are still finding space for the queen to lay in.  The entire hive is slowly turning into honey with a few exceptions here and there and a few frames of bee bread.  If they haven't tried to swarm by mid June I'll split them and let them build emergency cells. I squeezed out enough room today to add one more new bar they can build out.  Saw the queen and she looked good.  I also noticed that many bees were dancing to be cleaned by other bees.  I wonder if that hygienic behavior is part of what has helped them recover from disease.

Another nice frame of brood.


A close up of very young larvae.  Notice how well fed they are that they are shiny or wet looking.


Here is the queen.


Plum Creek
Had time to add syrup and some empty comb today.  They had built two tiny 4 inch lobs of comb in the last 16 hours that were so horribly off-center and crooked I had to remove them.  I did see a few eggs in one of the pieces so I now know this is a primary swarm with a laying queen.

Back to the bees,

Jeff