Blackberries are days away from having the first bloom spikes opening and we should be peak flow in the next 2-3 weeks. If the weather stays on course this may also be the last nectar flow until fall and like the bees we should be thinking ahead for what is coming in the next 2-3 months.
Things I will be planning for:
- A long summer dearth
- Brood breaks to interrupt the disease cycle
Catmint (Nepeta) produces long lasting flower spikes that are highly appealing to honey bees. They are members of the mint family and do best in sunny locations with moderate water requirements and also show good drought tolerance once established. Unlike many other perennials Nepeta is tough and can flourish even if neglected for many years. Both the foliage scent and flowers will benefit from short dry periods between watering. Trimming back spent flower spikes mid-summer will help keep new flowers forming all summer long. Many of the newer varieties of Nepeta you will find are sterile hybrid crosses that need to be propagated from division or cuttings. They are great plants for use in rock gardens, along pathway edges, or as companion plants in rose gardens.
Hive checks (4/12/2015)
Looks like the queen cell they had to work with was bad. I found part of a developing queen on the floor of the hive and she was still white. Added a virgin queen from another hive to give them a chance to get a mated a queen.
The cell was open, but I didn't see the queen. Will check again in a week and see if she has started laying.
Lots of fanning and most of the cells were full of nectar or pollen. No signs of a queen. I split them with about 4 day old larvae (day 7) in queen cells on 3/22. I expected new queens about 9 days later on 4/1. The new queen has had 12 days to start laying but with no sign of her or signs of queen activity and the excessive fanning I'd say it was a good bet they were queenless. I added a virgin queen from another hive to give them a second chances to get a mated queen.
The queen is building the hive back up again and there is a good amount of brood coming. I did notice some brood disease, and I'm hoping that doesn't turn into a bigger issue.
Hive checks (4/25/2015)
The queen I introduced is still around and I saw a few eggs. No idea yet if or how well she mated.
Also found a few eggs in this hive and the saddest queen I've ever seen. If this hive wasn't just a few frames of bees I would never have been able to pick her out. Small queens are fine but that is not what she was. When they aren't any bigger than a worker they usually don't survive long or don't mate and become drone layers. Rather than wait for the inevitable I pulled her out and combined with Nuc 1 that at least has a good sized queen.
Saw a few eggs, and didn't see the queen. This is a big hive and it would be easy to miss her. I tried to get them to draw new comb and they are being stubborn. Also everything they did start they wanted to make perpendicular to the existing comb. Argh! Also saw what looked to be an old capped queen cell in the front which wouldn't be a good sign.
Still seeing DWV in this hive, but they are increasing in numbers slowly. I'm surprised how hard of a time they are having bouncing back in this hive. This hive gets almost no direct sun and that might be part of the issue.
They have been slow and steady and have built up nicely. They are using about 75% of the hive and are on the verge of increasing 3 fold in the next 1-2 weeks. I found a few queen cells with freshly laid eggs in them that I removed. Most were empty so I may still have some time to delay them. I added some spacers to see if I can get them to draw comb instead of swarming. I would like to delay until the second week in May, but sometimes you have to compromise.
Over the years I have seen newly laid eggs in random queen cups too often for it to be a coincidence and I think this is more common than people think. I think queens lay eggs everywhere and workers decide when they want to let them turn into queens. However there is no way to know which is the case if you should happen to see one.
The laying pattern is a little spotty but the signs of disease I was seeing before appears to be clearing up. They seem to be building up nicely again.
Saw the new queen and watched her fly off the back frame I was looking at and fly back in through the hive entrance. Watching a queen fly off a frame is not something you want to have happen! She hasn't started laying yet like her sister, but this is a bigger hive so could have easily missed a few random eggs. They were polishing cells for her to start using which is a good sign and where I will look for her to have started laying next inspection.
Hive checks (4/26/2015)
Caught a swarm that I suspect might be a secondary swarm (virgin queen) and put it into the old Dyno hive. This hive is full of half combs of honey and should get them off to a good start.
Back to the bees,