Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Buildup And An Early Maple Flow

Spring has officially arrived and we are well ahead of the curve here in the Northwest.  Some plants are blooming almost 2 months early which is creating an additive effect with our typical blooms for this time of year.  The weather has also been unusually nice and we haven't seen any of our typical late season storms.  This is an optimal scenario for hive buildup and with the maples starting to bloom we are heading into our first seasonal flow.  This means many hives will try to take advantage of that surge in food and try and reproduce through swarming.

I've already heard of a swarm catch on March 5th which is the earliest confirmed case I know of for Seattle.  Now is the time to be using swarm management practices on strong hives in the area, if it's not already too late.  This is not an optimal time of year for new queens to mate so if you can, you will want to avoid splitting hives or loosing them to swarms.

All this nice weather could also mean we will have a long dry summer which would be hard on the bees.  Blackberries will be early.  How early is hard to say, but I am thinking we will see the first bloom spikes around the city before the end of April.  Yeah I'm not joking about that.  Everything is shifted forward and we need to listen to what mother nature is saying and be thinking ahead.  Doing the usual management things based on what the calendar tells us would be a mistake in a year like this.

Winter Heather has been going strong and tends to always have a few girls collecting nectar.

Anemone blanda is coming up.

Cherries are still holding up, but are now past their peak.

Leopard's Bane (Doronicum orientale) has started blooming although it's hard to convince people these any different from Dandelions.

Big Leaf Maple is starting to pop.

Grape hyacinth is in bloom.

Petasites are in bloom.

Evergreen huckleberry is blooming.

Brunnera macrophylla is in bloom.

Flowering Red Currant is in bloom and has been drawing a lot of attention from humming birds.

Forsythia usually kicks off spring with amazing color, but it is not getting much attention with all the early competition this year.

Tulips are already blooming.  Even the tulip festival is needing to start early this year.

Laurel is in bloom.

Wallflowers are blooming.

Photinia is in bloom and another early nectar source.

Kerria japonica is in bloom.

Purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum) is in bloom as well.

Hive checks (3/1/2015)
Hive checks today were to monitor the food supply and make sure the queen had room to lay.

Ballard daughter
They have a giant broodnest covering 17 frames.  There is honey in the back of the hive, but the broodnest is looking pretty scarce as far as food reserves.  Frames are well covered with bees and there were several frames of drones on the way.  From what I could tell the drones were not getting well cared for and I suspect they had to cutback due to the still chilly nights.

This frame is all drone cells.

This one is all worker brood.

Here is the queen.

Another frame of worker brood.

Rosemary Nuc
The nuc is full of bees and brood covered 8 or the 10 frames.  Stores were also light in this hive.  I also saw the same issue with the drones not being well cared for.

A frames of worker brood.

The queen is hard at work.

Another nice frame of worker brood.

Hive checks (3/7/2015)
Another nice day today hovering around 60F with the sun shining.

Ballard Hive
The boost from the remains of the Rosemary daughter hive has paid off and they had a small but decent cluster of brood on 4 frames.

They are building up slowly.

Nice section of worker brood.

This hive also benefited from the extra bees coming from the Rose Nuc.  It has a broodnest over 2-3 frames and they looked to be in good shape to build up.

The queen is slowly rebuilding.

The cluster was not big enough to stay warm through the recent cold nights.  They were also still trying to cope with disease and had lost too many bees.

Hive checks (3/14/2015)
Ballard daughter
If I had to sum up this hive with one word I would say "bees!"  There have been a few times when I really could use a top bar hive bigger than 4 feet and this is one of them.  There were bees poring out the back of the hive when I pulled out the last comb.

Nice frame of worker larvae on the way.

Nice frame of capped worker brood.

This queen has been busy.

The broodnest hasn't increased much since the last inspection and it currently covers 18 frames, but the older frames in the back have been cleaned up and are ready for use.  I pulled one frame out that they either tore up or had sealed with propolis.  I also saw a few random cells closed with propolis on other frames.  I usually see them tearing up comb if there was something bad they didn't want but this is a first time for seeing them sealing up cell with propolis.  This could be due to something they couldn't remove or remove safely.

These cells appear to be sealed with propolis.

You can see the pollen in the neighboring cells.

It may be hard to see in this photo, but this was a different frame at the back of the hive they started to tear apart.  The white/yellow is old pollen from last year they were having a hard time getting out.  The cell walls are ripped down in many places and you can see a hole starting to form.

I am not seeing any white wax yet for a hive this size, which would be a sign of surplus nectar coming in.  However there was an abundance of pollen in a variety of colors getting stored.  Without nectar the hive has to cut back on brood production that would normally use up the pollen.  Also foragers will continue to work and if all they find is pollen it starts to pile up quickly and could trigger a swarm impulse as soon as the Maple nectar flow starts.  Some maples are starting so it's just a matter of a few sunny days and nice weather to change everything.  I was also seeing plenty of newly emerged drones and several older mature drones in the hive so if nothing else there are drones available for other queens to mate with.

Lots of pollen getting stored right now.

You can see the pollen filling in around the brood.  Need to keep an eye on this as it can trigger swarming.  A week of sunshine with all forage blooming and a hive of this size can fill up any empty combs in a matter of days.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff