Saturday, March 5, 2016

Spring Is Early

Officially spring is still a couple weeks away, but things don't appear to care what the calendar tells us.  It's been warm the last few weeks with daily temps getting above 50F+ and also very wet!  There is a ton of stuff blooming, but getting out there between rainstorms is making it hard to get good photos.  Plums came into full bloom this week which is the first big tree and the bees are definitely noticing. 

I was lucky enough to get a few hours of sunshine this morning and was able to check all the hives.  Some are weak and have tiny patches of brood, but two stand out in particular and will be my breeder queens this year.  Unlike previous years I plan to replace all the queens of week hives this year rather than try and keep them going and waiting to see how long they will last before mother nature kills them.  Often these weak hives will build up and look great by the blackberry flow and it's easy to forget they almost didn't survive winter.  Last year I picked one of these queens to be a breeder queen because I got distracted by their great buildup and as a result I lost all the daughters over winter.

One of the hives I want to breed from this year is the Rosemary hive. I like this hive because they stored a good amount of honey and have kept the hive bottom board spotless all season.  The hive was split early spring last year and didn't have any other brood breaks.  My main concern is that the daughters from winter 2014 both died leaving queenless hives.  Other concerns are that they build crazy comb, and don't ignore you during inspections.  Sometimes that can turn into aggression with daughter hives.

The other hive I want to breed from is Quickdraw.  They already have capped drone brood and are building up very quickly and I'll be needing to do swarm management before the end of the month.  These bees are a little different from the other hives in that they stored a LOT of pollen mid summer and then had a big buildup during the dearth and then somehow replaced all the pollen with honey going into fall.  They build straight comb and ignore you during inspections.  However they didn't dry all the nectar and some of it fermented leaving the hive bottom board a bit "wet".  I also found a fair number of dead bees in the back of the hive on the bottom board.  Perhaps the dead bees were from trying to remove the fermented nectar. 

Sadly my camera battery died and I didn't get any hive photos today.  

Crocus are a great pollen source.

Calendula tends to start booming a little before the dandelions.

Lawn Daisy is already out in bloom.

Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) is a delicate shrub starts budding during the peak of our winter and is in full bloom by early spring.  These evergreens have thick waxy looking leaves with varieties ranging from either solid dark green, or yellow variegated.  The long lasting pink/white flowers are sweetly scented and tough enough to hold up in our late winter storms.  Plant in well-drained soil that can fully dry out between watering as they will quickly die in soggy or deeply watered locations which is why they have a reputation for being short lived plants.  A key to getting great blooms is to plant them in a location that gets morning sunlight and afternoon shade.  Pruning should be minimal and focused on removing diseased or dead branches keeping in mind that this is an open branched bush that needs airflow.  They can be easily started from cuttings, but will not transplant.

Most varieties of the Which hazel are just finishing up their bloom.

Dandelions are in bloom and are great pollen and nectar source.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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