Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winter Storms Have Arrived

Winter storms are here and we have just started our second below freezing cold spell for the year.  If hives aren't setup with food near the cluster these long cold spells can quickly starve them.  The tricky part about overwintering in the Puget Sound area is we bounce around during winter from warm to cold weeks.  This means they are burning more energy looking for forage on warm days and they are also breaking up the cluster.  Studies have shown bees do better when they have a consistent cold that keeps them inside most of the winter with an occasional nice day to do cleansing flights.  On the plus side these long cold spells are also good for finishing off other pests like the yellow jackets that don't have a food reserve to keep them going.

Snow on the Aster stems.

A good roof should keep the hive body dry.  Another perk to the top bar hive is that we would need about 4 feet of snow before it would be high enough to start blocking the entrances.

Winter blooming Camellia provides pollen.

False holly (Osmanthus heterophyllus) is a good mid November bloomer.

With a few warm days we've seen some Dandelions come back into bloom.

This Fennel plant is putting out blooms a bit late in the season.

Hive checks (11/8/2014)
Rebel Daughter
The brood diseases I saw last inspection have killed them.  I split up the resources between the Roma and Ballard Daughter hive.  This hive and queen line had struggled every year just to survive.

Every year I find a few overwintering yellow jacket queens.  Usually they are under the hive roofs in living hives.  In spring they will wake up and start new colonies assuming nothing squishes or eats them.  

If you see brood like this in your dead-out, your hive was sick.

Ballard Daughter
I checked a few frames in the cluster and they still have a good amount of brood coming and also saw larvae.  There are a good number of bees in this hive, and I was surprised to see this conservative hive still raising brood.

Brood in November.

They are still holding on, an I didn't look much past the last frame they were clustered on.  Moved the best honey frames from the Rebel Daughter hive next to the cluster.

They looked like they were doing good and have gotten ahead of the brood diseases.  They appear to have a good setup for winter and the hive is now full of comb they inherited from the Luna hive.  Now the question is whether they have enough bees to keep the cluster warm during storms.

An Assassin bug hiding under the cover.  I've been seeing these around everywhere this year.

I was surprised to see them already gone.  I knew they were sick, but they had a lot of bees and I was thinking they would make it a little later into winter.

They didn't make it and the hive was getting robbed.  Brood disease took them out quickly.

Plum Creek
They weren't able to recover form the brood disease either and were gone.  The queen was oddly still alive, but she was alone minus a few robbers and yellow jackets.  I stuck her in a cage and she's on my desk at the moment.  There isn't anything I can do with her unless I stumble across queenless hive in the next day or so which is not likely to happen since I don't plan to inspect anyone else right now.

They appear to have gotten ahead of the brood disease and had a good number of bees.  Didn't inspect further than the last frames and they were robbing out the other hives.  The hive is now full of the excess honey frames from both Plum Creek and Quickdraw.

Hive checks (11/27/2014)
Saw robbing activity between the Ballard daughter and Roma hives, but didn't inspect with the weather changing.  I suspect the Roma hive either died during the last cold spell or is too weak to stop robbing.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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