Sunday, March 30, 2014

Spring Manipulations

Just before Spring Break I reduced my hives to single deeps and today I went around my hives to check on progress.  It was a mixed bag but quite interesting all the same.

At home the hive I had combined with another remained weak. There was some brood in it and I saw some bees hatching, but there was no sign of eggs or larvae and I couldn't find a Queen.  That said, I thought I saw a very small queen.  Could it have been a virgin queen? I don't know but what I saw was very small and it had a pointed abdomen. So it looked like a miniature queen. I will check in a week to see what changes there have been in the hive but I suspect this hive will have to get a new queen in a couple of weeks time.

The hive in Diane's yard is roaring with life! Before Spring Break this had brood in the super that was under the deep.  Today when I checked the super, this still had some brood in it, and there were five or six frames of solid capped brood in the deep. I added a second deep, and put the super above this.  I suspect this hive may be a candidate for a future split.

In Ladue the weak hive there had some small amount of brood. The queen is present and laying, but slowly.  Perhaps she will be replaced by one of the new queens when they arrive! The other two hives are doing well and will likely need second deeps sometime towards the end of this week. Currently they have three or four frames of capped brood.

The hive in the botanical gardens is similar to Diane's. Plenty of frames of capped brood and buzzing! I added a second deep.  most of the new deep is just foundation and will have to be drawn out so I will persist in feeding it for the time being.

Overall it seems I have four really strong hives that will probably be split and two hives that may need new queens. I have four queens arriving in mid April; two will be used in the weak hives and two will be used to split the strong hives. I am encouraged there will be a lot of bees around for the spring! Lets hope the nectar flow is strong!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Nectar Flow

I was asked today what I thought the spring would be like! It's been such a long cold winter I really wouldn't have a clue where to start trying to forecast anything like that.

However, I do know when I'd like spring and the nectar flow to start... When I got in to look at my hives last week there was  no brood in most of them.  So given that the queens may have been laying this week, and given that it takes 21 days for a worker to emerge, and given that another 3 weeks must pass before forager bees start their job, I hope the nectar flow doesn't start going fast until around April 20 or even later. 

Normally people reckon the nectar flow starts in St Louis around April 15. All I can say is that i hope it is late this year, or I'll have too few bees to take advantage of it!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Topping up...

As predicted I needed to top up the feeders. Down at the Gardens the bees consumed an entire gallon of sugar syrup in 4 days; I refilled the feeder on Thursday. In Ladue the weak hive there needed more as well, but only a couple of pints or so.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ladue Inspection

I almost didn't go round the apiaries today as I thought it might be too cold. However, in the sun it was lovely so I went to the hives in Ladue and at the Gardens.

I went to the Gardens first and fed the hive there; a gallon of 2:1 sugar syrup. I expect I'll have to go back on Wednesday to fill up, or at least to check on it. The hive cluster looked tight so I just left them after filling a division board feeder. Maybe the feed will stimulate brood rearing? I can hope!

After visiting the Gardens I went to Ladue.  I saw two queens in the three hives there. Oddly, the 'weakest' hive had a queen but I didn't see one in the 'strongest' hive. I reduced all three hives to single deeps and I will discard the oldest frames. I better start ordering new equipment!

In Ladue the two strongest hives had sufficient stores but the weak one was light so I'll will feed this. I'm not sure if this will help but it certainly can't do any  harm. I'll go back tomorrow to feed using a division board feeder.

So what have I learned from this first round of spring inspections and manipulations?

Firstly, bees are very good at surviving cold weather. Of the 8 hives I had going into winter one died, and one was combined with another. Not bad, but there is still some way to go before winter can be called over! 

Secondly, I think the cold may have delayed brood rearing. Only one of the 6 hives has any brood in it, yet I saw queens in all but 2. I'll ask around the beekeeping community to see what other   people have seen. I feel a question for bee club on Wednesday...

I think there will be a few warm days coming this week and I hope this will start to awaken the plants and trees. Newly available forage will be welcomed by the bees and I really hope that they start to rear brood in quick time now.  With luck the 4 queens I have ordered can then be used in nucs and I can start a few more hives.  I think I have enough deeps for up to 9 or 10 hives. It would be cool to expand to that, but challenging too!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Spring Manipulations

It's been a lovely warm day and the bees are loving it!  So I decided to interrupt their fun and rummage through my hives.

I did the two in the backyard first then the one down the street. I got to the garden hive late this afternoon.

One of my backyard hives appeared Queenless; there was no brood, and not many bees. So I combined this with its neighbour. This hive did have a queen but there was no brood in the hive as yet. I added some pollen from a couple of spare frames and I also reduced the hive to a single deep before combining the two. The weak hive I put over the strong but separated by a sheet of newspaper. They seem happy enough...

The hive in Diane's yard is strong.  Lots of bees, in a super and in a deep, a queen, some food and some brood (in the super). The hive had 2 deeps. The bottom deep had no stores so I removed it! The super I then put under the remaining deep which had some stores. Hopefully the queen will move up and start laying in the deep now.

Down at the gardens it was a similar story to the hive at home; a queen, a good number of bees but no brood, and only a little by way of stores.  I think I may feed this hive and put in a frame of pollen.  But I need to check if feeding syrup at this time of year isn't too early.

So it was a good day all round, even though I'm down to 6 hives, I feel good about what I have seen.  but I think some feeding is now in order.  I will try to go through my other hives on Sunday or Monday.

I wonder if anyone else out there has seen queens but no brood?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

First good weather for ages!

I can't remember the last time it was this warm! I expect we'll be told by the weather people tonight but it seems like ages!  And what's more there are at least 3 days of this to come - in a row!!!

I took the opportunity to go and have a look at the bees in the Botanical Gardens this morning.  I wasn't disappointed! I think they must be almost as excited as me to have some flying weather.  The hive was positively spewing out bees from the bottom entrance and the top entrance!  It was just wonderful to see! And no small relief either after such a long spell of cold weather.  So here are a couple of videos of what I saw...

video

video

And as a bonus the bees in the three hives in Ladue and my two hives at home are reported to be flying about today as well!  So, just the hive just down the street to account for now; fingers crossed!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

My bees are alive!

It was warm today! Ok so not 'shorts and tee shirt' warm but certainly warm enough for me to take a very quick look in the top of my hives at home, without worrying about chilling the cluster.

And I found bees buzzing at the top of both! Remarkable! It's been so cold for so long you really just have to wonder and marvel at their resilience and hardiness! Still I suppose 65 million years of evolution has to count for something!