Sunday, December 21, 2014

Winter Solstice and Hive Activity

So far winter here in the Puget Sound has been warm and we even broke an all time record with 66F degrees on Dec 10th.  A few cold snaps have also blown through that took out pretty much everything that wasn't supposed to be blooming for this time of year, and forced plants into their winter dormancy.

One perk of the warmer weather is I was able to do a full hive inspection to see what they were up to for this time of year, and likely will have another chance to do another full inspection this season.  A downside is that I suspect they are burning through food reserves being so busy right now.  Another risk they could run into is that they could get caught in period of freezing weather with a lot of brood to keep warm.

I'm not sure how often people look around the site, but I've updated the Bee Plants page to bring it up to date!  Here's the newest profile:

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a small evergreen tree that adds an exotic look to our Northwestern gardens with it's large glossy leaves.  This plant is a native to south-central China and while it does need slightly warmer weather than our area can provide to produce mature fruit, it will still flourish as an ornamental.  New leaves will be fuzzy red to yellowish in color and slowly mature to a dark green.  Stems of the tree are light brown and also slightly fuzzy and while it looks delicate is actually pretty tough in our climate.  In December it will produce clusters of whitish flowers that give off a sweet scent that can smelled for a distance.  Once established trees will show a degree of drought tolerance, however they have a shallow root system and care should be taken to not disturb the soil under the canopy.

Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)

Here's the Ballard daughter hive on 12/5/2014.  If you can't see the video, use the following link:

Crimson clover is slowly growing in my planters as a winter cover crop, and am thinking I should start it earlier next year.  Hopefully the birds and squirrels let some of it survive till spring so that it can do it's magic to amend the soil, and maybe bloom to provide an early nectar source.

Bodnant Viburnum has come into bloom.

Mahonia powers through our winters essentially immune to whatever mother nature throws at it.  They are amazingly drought tolerant as well.

Hive checks (12/5/2014)
Ballard daughter
It was 52F today with calm weather and I did a full inspection.  This is the latest point in the year I've ever done a full inspection on any hive.  The queen looked good and I found a patch of brood across 3 frames.  Largest patches of brood were on the sides of the comb facing the back of the hive away from the entrance.   The brood nest started on frame 5 in from the entrance.  I saw a few 7-8 day old larvae in the brood nest as well which means they were raising brood during the last cold snap.  On the very last frame of the brood nest I found a small cluster of dead/dying bees that couldn't get around the comb to the warmer parts of the cluster.  The side of the comb there were on also didn't have any honey stores left.  They are currently robbing honey from the Roma hive and I moved some of the best frames into the hive to save them effort.  These bees definitely have Italian traits.

Dead bees at the end of the cluster on a side of comb with no food reserves.

They have drones!  There were more than just these two.

The queen is laying!

I often find wax moth larvae trying to hide in the grooves above the top bars.  They don't actually get into the hive and are usually safe unless I'm inspecting which exposes their hiding spots.

There were a few frames like this and I didn't want to brush off the bees for a better photo but the brood is there in the middle and there was also uncapped larvae.

Sadly they didn't make it.  I moved the best frames of honey to the Rosemary daughter, Ballard daughter and Rose hives.

This is what it looks like when comb is torn open to get the honey.  Oddly I never see this rough behavior when they are opening their own combs to get honey.  Perhaps they just clean it up better when it's their own comb.

Scriber Creek
I thought it was odd there was no activity and when I took a look was surprised to find they died in the last cold snap.  I last inspected them on 10/5/2014 and they looked great and didn't see signs of disease.  There didn't seem to be very many dead bees on the bottom of the hive and I did notice what think were a few zombie bee flies (Apocephalus borealis) running around.  I find it interesting the flies survived freezing weather without the benefit of a warm bee cluster. I pulled a few random dead bees from brood cells and a few did have varroa and signs of DWV which I had never seen in this hive before.  In October they really would only have had one more brood cycle for winter bees which seems odd they would have crashed that fast.

No inspection, but swapped an empty frame in the back for one with capped honey and pollen.

Rosemary daughter
No inspection and filled the back of the hive with honey bars.

Hive checks (12/6/2014)
Visual Checks on the Ballard, Rosemary, Solis and Dyno hives and they all had entrance activity.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff