Mar 19 2017
It got up to 46 degrees and was very sunny so I went out to inspect the garden, now that every bit of snow is finally melted. I noticed the bees out in the two hives and quite active. So I decided to do a mini-popup inspection. Just to see the top boxes and what the bees are doing.
They were all over in the yard on the crocuses which just showed up in the past two days.
So at 1:00pm, at 46 degrees, very sunny with no wind, I went in to the bee shed – mmmmmm, that delicious smell of smoke and honey and beeswax – suited up and went out on to the bee deck.
I got out my tools for the first time this year and started up the smoker. I went ahead and smoked the 2 hives I know are alive and then proceeded to go ahead and remove all of the winter insulation, beehive wrap, the top insulation and the bricks. So the hives are all bare and ready for spring.
I then took off the wire mesh entrance reducers and stick a really long paint stick in under the front door and went about trying to sweep out as many dead bees from the bottom screen that I could. They are pretty jammed in there but I got quite a bit out.
I’m not going to do anything but look in the top boxes since it’s still to cold to actually remove boxes and disrupt them. It’s supposed to get down to near freezing tonight.
Orange Hive – Queen Innfødt (local queen)
I smoked under the lid, removed the lid, smoked the opening in the inner cover and removed the inner cover. The entire top box is just full of bees.
I pulled out the middle frame and – waalaa – about half a frame on both sides of capped brood and also fresh eggs. There are two middle frames like this. I took a peek at the rest of the frames in this box. There is a good amount of pollen but also 4 of the frames are full of fresh nectar. I have no idea where they’d be getting that at this time of year. There can’t be that many crocuses and primroses around here.
I closed it back up and moved on to the yellow hive.
Yellow Hive – Queen Løper (roll your own queen)
This hive also had a lot of bees up in the top box, although not as many as the Orange Hive. They also didn’t seem to be as wildly active as the orange hive, although they were active.
I peeked at the middle frame and they, too, have some capped brood and some fresh eggs. They do not have 4 frames of nectar – just a couple of pollen and about a half a frame of nectar.
So when I found 4 frames of left over honey in the dead hive, I put them in a box, with 4 empty frames in the middle of the box, and just plopped this on top of the yellow hive in order to give them a little more food.
Purple Hive – Queen Lilla (local queen)
So this hive was as I expected – all dead. There were a combination of signs in the hive (one said “help help we’re dying”) but I’m not sure exactly what it is that actually took them down.
Clearly bees starved – there were several frames with bee butts up, faces buried in the cells, and other bees on top of them with their faces in the cells. This means they died trying to lick out the last of the food in a cell. There was also mildew throughout the hive, but this would have happened if they died because there was no longer a heating and ventilation system produced by the bees. A lot of the cells were full of basically water from the moisture. There were 4 frames that were about half full of capped honey.
What I did notice was that even though the bottom screened board was full of dead bees, it didn’t look to me like a LOT of bees – not as many as if an entire hive died. So I’m also thinking that they just didn’t have enough bees to hit critical mass in order to survive.
I cleaned out this entire hive, tore it all apart, dumped all the bees, scraped the dead ones off any of the frames and put all the frames back in the bee shed.
WEATHER AND PLAN
So with bees way up in the top boxes and already laying up babies and capping some off (which means they’ve been laying up for at least a week), this could create a problem of swarming. They might feel they have no more room to expand (even though the entire bottom 3 boxes of the hive are probably empty).
It’s supposed to rain all week long – no sun. Since I leave tomorrow for a week out of town for work, I’m hoping that holds true as that will keep them in the hive and they won’t want to swarm. Then when I get back, hopefully we hit a day where it’s warm enough (and not freezing overnight) to actually do a full inspection or at least get in there and rotate all the babies down to the bottom.
HB, meanwhile, will be busy this week putting together a bunch of new frames. I need to start swapping out the really old frames with dark, used brood comb.
Checklist for swapping out frames:
- Replace any empty, old, dark frames with drawn, empty frames that were honey frames last fall from the shed
- Push all the bees down and put these old honey frames directly above and between them.
- Put all the new, bare frames on top
- This will encourage them to brood up in the honey frames, which are clean, and draw out the new frames for honey storage.
- As old brood frames hatch out, try and grab them out of there before they start laying again and swap them out for drawn honey frames
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