Mar 08 2015
I probably shouldn’t be so happy (but I am sooo happy that it’s bee season again). The fact is, we’ve had a record breaking warm winter. We’re in the 60’s at the end of Feb and first of March. This sounds great, but this can be pretty bad for both the bees and their food. Things are starting to bud and blossom and when we get that hard frost (and we all know we will), entire flowering crops like apples and pears can be entirely shot for the year.
If the bees start brooding up like it’s April, but there’s no food out there, or if a hard freeze comes, then some of the consequences are that the bees could just plough through the good food stores I left on the hive and I’ll have to feed them sugar water. Or they could freeze their brood because they normally don’t have brood this time of year.
I went to the bee house yesterday and talked to the Wiz. He said he went out and inspected his hives and it scared him to death because he found nearly all of them had brooded up, and the queen was laying brood all over in the top of the hive. He said he moved all the brood down to the bottom, packed honey on both sides of the brood and a box on top and then empties above that so that when the hard frost comes ( and we all know it will), they’ll have food all around them and the nurse bees won’t have to make a choice of either having to cover and warm the brood or venture into the corners of the hive for food.
So today about 1pm it was 64 degrees outside and sunny.
I went out to the bee shed and brought out to the bee deck a couple extra boxes for sorting, pine shavings for fire started, more burlap (thanks to sis-in-law), a new lighter, and a broom.
I suited up – boy, there is no better smell in the spring then the first time you put on your bee suit after a long winter. It smells of beeswax and sweet propolis and wood smoke. Tucked my pants into my boots and put on long gloves because I didn’t know how grumpy the girls would be when I shake them up.
I first took all the winter insulation and bricks off the hives and took off the roofing paper from around the hives. I then got my smoker started, got out all my tools and set the sorting boxes out.
I started with the blue hive and then moved to the orange hive.
I smoked the front door and under the lid each time. Then I started digging through the hives from top to bottom, frame by frame.
They are sure a mess. Everything is stuck together really well with propolis, which had the consistency of peanut butter laced with honey. Every top of every box, all the runners just thick with it, all the frames stuck together with it. I spent most of my time actually scraping the sticky gummy goop off everything. I had to scrape my hive tools off over and over in my little gathering bucket.
Each hive still has a good 1 1/2 boxes of honey. They also both had a good 2 frames of new pollen that the girls are bringing in. I’m assuming they’re finding crocuses because there were a lot of girls in the hives with very full bags of super light creamy yellow pollen and then some darker yellow, but not orange. And there was a lot of new pollen being stuffed in frames.
I did see a mite on the back of one girl in the blue hive. I’ll need to do a mite count later in the spring, in about a month, when they’re strong enough to take the hit of a mite count.
The blue hive had 2 frames of closed and open brood in the 3rd box up on the right side. I didn’t see the queen. The bottom box had a huge mess of mildewed dead bees in the entire middle of the box and piled up the sides of some of the frames. Obviously, they couldn’t haul them all out during the winter.
Throughout, the girls were very gentle, not grumpy at all.
I removed the bottom box, brushed all the dead bees off the screen and out. Then I put on a new bottom box, put the 2 frames of brood in the middle, put pollen and honey on either side with 1 extra empty frame one frame away from the honey for expansion. I then put the two boxes of honey and pollen on top with a few empty frames. I was able to get rid of an entire box and it’s empty frames. So this hive now is down to 4 boxes.
The orange hive had 4 frames of open brood and fresh eggs up in the 3rd box. I actually saw Queen Håper. I again removed and cleaned the bottom box and screen, then moved the queen and her brood to the bottom, in the middle, with 1 pollen and all the rest honey. I also topped this box with a box of honey, with 1 empty frame above, and the other box of honey and a 4th with food and some empties. I was also able to get rid of a box and it’s empty frames so it’s also down to 4 boxes.
I then swept and cleaned the bee deck, put everything away, left my hive tools in the smoker to burn off the propolis. The girls were quite active after managing them as they always are.