Friday, February 27, 2015

A Seasonal Malfunction

Last year spring was a little early.  This year we seemed to have missed the end of winter all together and are now experiencing spring conditions.  Not only are the usual late winter flowers in bloom but we also have a slew of things that are blooming a month or more early.  There are blooms everywhere and food is plentiful if the hives can get to it.  Daytime temps are in the 50s with nighttime temperatures in the high 30s to low 40s which is the only thing holding back an explosive hive buildup.

As for whether this warm weather is a good or bad thing for the bees is hard to say.  On the plus size they are building up faster.  On the down side we could end up having a longer and drier summer than last year.  I also worry that warm weather will allow for predators to get an earlier start as well and having already seen a few yellow jackets around that's not a good thing.  There is also a real concern that we will get a storm that will cutoff the hives food supply for a few days.  Hives are using about a 100% of what they are bringing in to raise brood and don't keep much of a reserve for bad weather.

Rosemary is always attracting the girls.

Euphorbia characias 'Wulfenii' is a another food source.

 Magnolia stellata 'Royal Star' are just coming into bloom.

Plums are in full bloom right now and a good food source.

 Oxalis Oregana is in bloom right now.

Cornelian cherry is already in bloom.

Here's a picture of both Hazelnut catkins and blooms (tiny purple flower) that are open right now.

 Daphne x transatlantica 'Eternal Fragrance' is in bloom.

 Most Magnolia trees are usually further behind the Star Magnolia, but this year they are almost ready to pop.

Crocus blooms appearing at the end of winter are a sign that spring is on the way and are an excellent pollen food source.  They are easy to grow and like well drained soils that get a good amount of sunlight.  If you are relaxed about your lawn care, Crocus can even be naturalized into yards for a splash of early spring color.  Crocus come in a variety of colors and they bloom from fall to spring.  If you are a fan of saffron, it is made from the dried stigmas of the fall blooming Crocus sativus.  Unlike bulb flowers the Crocus corms gets completely absorbed into the flower and leaves during the bloom cycle and then will make new corms as the plant goes dormant again, so be careful not to destroy the plant during the growing cycle.

Evergreen clematis is in bloom.

Spring Hebe are coming into bloom.

Daffodil are in bloom.

Lonicera fragrantissima is in bloom.  It didn't even loose it's leaves this year.

Oregon Grape is starting to bloom.

Scilla siberica is coming up with it's elusive blue pollen.

Red maples are in bloom.

Indian Plum is usually one of our earliest blooming natives.

Quince are in bloom.

Hive checks (2/8/2015)
It was supposed to be raining today, but we had a "bright sky" break this morning (I'd say sun break, but there was a high layer of clouds filtering it) and temps were around 55F.

I saw some eggs in the center of cells, but I suspect this is the work of a laying worker at this point.  No signs of a queen present.

Rosemary daughter
There are several frames of bees and I did not see the queen or signs of the queen.

Ballard daughter
I saw some drones flying from this hive.  The broodnest is now covering 10 frames.  I wanted to take a peak at this hive to see if anything had happened with that supersedure cell I saw last inspection and I was pleasantly surprised to see it not capped.  Taking a close look it also appeared to be empty this time.  I did notice some work on queen cups around the frames, but I'm not seeing any white comb or a nectar excess yet.  However with the way this season is going we could have an early maple flow in March and they may try to use that window to swarm so I will need to keep an eye on things.

The queen looks good and has a nice following of nurse bees.

Brood nest.

New bees are emerging.

Hive checks (2/9/2015)
Ballard Nuc & Rosemary daughter
Combined these hives together.  The Ballard queen had a small patch of brood, which should be very appealing to the queenless Rosemary hive.  I'm not too worried about this combine as this is a fairly common way to get a queenless hive (without laying workers) queen right again.

Small brood nest.

Hive checks (2/10/2015)
Solis & Rose Nuc
Combined these hives together.  The Solis hive had a small patch of brood which was good to see.  There weren't many bees in the Rose Nuc, but their addition doubles the population of the Solis hive.  Having been queenless they should take to the new queen since laying workers hadn't started up yet.

Another small brood nest.

Hive checks (2/16/2015)
Quick peak at entrance activity and saw a few foragers coming back with pollen.  Can't say much more without looking inside, but based on my previous observations they have a long road ahead to rebuild their numbers.

Hive checks (2/21/2015)
Rosemary-Ballard Hive
The queen looked good and the broodnest was larger.  I moved several frames of honey from the back of the hive forward because the front frames were empty and they looked like they needed more food close by.

The broodnest has grown, but stores are looking low.

The queen looks good.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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