Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Boys are Back

In a northern location like Seattle I find that the long summer days sneak up pretty quickly.  Sometime in June I'll be working in the yard and get caught off guard that it's already 10PM, and it's still light out!  Beekeeping has a similar parallel for me as I check on them throughout winter to make sure the cluster has food hoping they will survive, and then in a blink they are making plans to swarm.

During my last inspection over the weekend I saw drones in my strong hives.  Drones are a sign that the hive is on a stable buildup cycle and can invest extra resources beyond just making workers.  However with the waves of sun/rain we've been getting, the hives can't take advantage of the nectar sources available and brood combs are currently looking light.  I consider a comb light when I don't see a 2-3" band of honey/nectar and another 1" band of pollen along the top.

I do hear about March swarms every year and yes that could happen this year if the sun were to come out for a few days.  A few hives get lured into early swarming by the surge in blooms and lack of early spring management to open up the broodnest.  Based on what I've been seeing I have started doing swarm management inspections every 7-10 days to stay ahead of them.  As long as the weather keeps up this pattern I'm not too worried, but if we get more than 3 days of sunshine in a row everything can change.

The plums were in bloom a couple weeks ago, and are mostly done now.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis).  This is one of my favorite bee friendly herbs with flower colors varying from white, blue, pink and purple.  Around here they usually have a robust bloom coming out of winter lasting into spring, but they also tend to bloom whenever they want any month of the year.  On a spring day in the sunshine these bushes will be covered in bees working them for pollen.  I've observed the flowers leaving a white/pale pollen mark along the thorax of workers which isn't quickly cleaned off and can be found during inspections. These evergreens are usually hardy enough to survive our winters, but can be damaged by deep freezes or extended winter storms over time.  Plant in a well drained sunny spot and they will thrive.  They also respond well to hedging and can be easily propagated from cuttings.

Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is in bloom and tends to be more popular with bumble bees than honey bees.

Siberian Squill (Scilla siberica) is one of those wonderful blue pollen plants that will have you wanting to plant fields of them after you see the bees with blue pollen baskets.

Purple Dead Nettle (Lamium purpureum) is an early nectar source.

Red Flowering Currant (Ribes sanguineum) is actually more pink and is very appealing to humming birds.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) is in bloom and a nectar source.

Quince is in bloom and a good pollen source.

Nice patch of brood in Rosemary hive.

Look at all the young fuzzy bees and drones in the Rosemary hive!

Pollen and nectar coming into the hive.

A drone warming up in the sun.  Some of them are mature enough to fly.

This is the Dyno hive queen.  They are still pretty small.

Emerging brood in Quickdraw.

Another patch of brood in Quickdraw.  It's hard to tell why it's spotty, but I suspect it's normal early spring buildup and will correct itself.

They were carrying a few dead bees out like this.  I couldn't tell when/why they died, but suspect they might have got left behind when the cluster condensed last fall.

The Quickdraw queen.  This hive has a lot of diversity in bees and it's nice to see that they like their queen.

Back to the bees,

- Jeff

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