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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where's the Honey?

We got a ton of rain yesterday and all last night -- the first really heavy rain we've seen in about a month, I think. It knocked down a bunch of our tomato plants, corn stalks, and climbing beans, but I don't mind. All that moisture for the plants means more nectar for the bees. 

The bees are feverishly working summer/late summer flowers like echinacea, Russian sage, and goldenrod. It does my heart good watching them zip back and forth across the yard.

Bee on echinacea (purple coneflower)

A neighbor gave me some plants last fall which have also just begun to flower. He didn't know what they were called, but he promised me that "bees are all over them!" A couple people in a local gardening group identified them as perennial sunflowers. Apparently, they can be somewhat invasive as they spread by the roots, but the bees do seem very fond of them. I know I am!

Perennial sunflower
My splits, Elsa, Buttercup, and Peach, all seem to be doing well. Peach and Elsa both have about a dozen drawn combs and are storing syrup, so I gave them each an empty bar to encourage more building. 

Thanks to the bear attack about 2 weeks ago, Buttercup has only 6 drawn combs. However, she's got lots of brood and is storing quite a bit of syrup, so I'm not worried about her yet. My only concern is that she might not be able to get her population up enough in the next month or so before it starts getting chilly.

I hadn't planned to inspect the hives today, but I can really smell the honey when I'm outside, so I cracked them open just to see what was going on. Imagine my surprise to find hardly any honey in the honey areas at all!

Bubblegum has drawn comb on all but one bar, but only bar has any nectar in it. Instead, I found lots brood in all stages.


Larvae of various ages
Austeja had three bars of nectar in the honey area, but nothing capped. Lots of brood, though.

I opened Hippolyte and Persephone very briefly because they were super nasty again. However, from what I could tell, Hippolyte had no stores in the honey area. Again, there was lots of brood in the back of the hive.

Persephone is a mystery, but my guess is that she's exhibiting more of the same. As soon as I removed the first bar from Persephone, a great black cloud of bees thundered at my head. Within seconds, I'd received two stings, and they were boring a way inside my veil and clambering up my shorts. I decided it just wasn't worth looking inside the hive. Instead, I closed her up and ran away hurling Shakespearean curses at the loathsome, venomous shrews. Seriously, these two colonies scare the daylights out of me, and I'm already making plans to order new queens for them... if they survive the winter. I can promise that they won't be getting much coddling in terms of winter prep from me either.

What's going on? Where's the honey? 
I definitely smell honey, so I know it's in there even if I'm not seeing any in the storage area. Here is my guess as to what's happening. I have end entrances, so when I did my inspection today, I started from the end opposite the entrance. Near the back of each nest, there were some bars of empty comb. After the empty comb, Bubblegum and Elsa had one or more honey bars. Then came the brood comb. After seeing the first brood comb, I closed up.

I suspect that as the brood emerges in the part of the nest closest to the entrance, it's being backfilled with nectar, which moves the nest closer to the back of the hive (where I began my inspection). This is what I noticed happening in the springtime prior to Austeja's swarm preparations. Also, Buttercup (the only nuc that got a full inspection because I wanted to see if she'd repaired the bear damage) is doing exactly what I just described. She's got a full bar of nectar/syrup right at the entrance and is backfilling the nest.

In any case, there is plenty of forage right now, so I'm not going to feed them. Fingers crossed that they fill up the hives in the next couple of weeks.




3 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. LOL! Mostly, I do, but my kids have contributed some names to the pool, too. I get final say, though. ;-)

      All the full-sized hives are named after famous queens -- mostly from mythology, but also pop-culture. The nucs, which were for my kids to enjoy, are named after pop-culture princesses from video games, cartoons, movies.

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  2. Glad to hear that things are going well (except for the nasty hives). It could be that they are storing honey above the brood area on each comb in prep for winter as well as storing some close to the front. That would be a good thing so they'll have honey close by to the brood. I hope you can steal at least one or two combs for yourself. Hope you have a good fall flow!

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