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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Eggs and Brood

Slowly but surely, I'm getting rid of this flu that I've contracted. Thanks to some NyQuil, I even slept through the night. After waking briefly to get my boys off to school, I took another nap and slept until about noon today.

Feeling more energetic than I have in days, I ambled outside for a bit of sunshine and watched the bees gathering moisture and whatever else from a failed strawberry planter experiment. It was so beautiful outdoors that impulsively, I started inspecting 5 of the hives. (I left off with Hippolyte the Beest because I was still in pjs -- when you wake up at noon, changing seems a bit pointless.)

Bees sucking moisture & whatever else from soil in planter

All the colonies I looked at had eggs today. Elsa, my insulated hive, even had larvae and some capped brood. She was booming actually. Of all the hives I looked at today, she had the most bees -- at least double the size of the next largest colony. Weirdly, she was also the most defensive, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's the hinged roof. I was standing in the roof's shadow during inspection, and maybe that set her off. One of her girls even popped me on the back of my hand, bringing my all-time total sting count to an even 60.

Taking a break

Except for Austeja, all the hives I opened today had loads of honey (avg 4-5 bars each) left over from winter, too. Austeja, my late season swarm, appeared to have barely squeaked through winter. She had a bar of eggs, but there weren't that many nurse bees. Almost all of her honey was gone, too, so she received two gift bars -- one from Elsa, one from Peach. Even though she got a late start last year, she's had a good laying pattern, and I'm hopeful she'll rebound with a little TLC.

Austeja -- Pulling sugar out of the combs.
The light yellowish dots are millet seeds collected from bird feeders.

A few of the colonies had some fallen comb or some slightly cross comb starting to happen, so I did a bit of clean up and got a nice little chunk of comb honey for my efforts.

Buttercup -- some comb tore off because of bridge comb connecting it to the next bar.

Ended up with a nice chunk of comb honey as a result.

I wish I'd thought to take a Sharpie or pencil out with me so I could've marked some of the bars I might consider moving over to the nucs that I'm going to make up for sale. Next time.

If the weather cooperates, I'd like to take a look at Hippolyte before next week. If external signs are valid indicators, I think I'll find a thriving colony inside her, too.



13 comments:

  1. I have lots of honey remaining as well, been thinking I should do something with it. Only going into my second year so I'm a little unsure. I'm supposed to end up with honey, not start with it!

    Glad to hear you and the bees are building up reserves. Just make sure you put a veil on when you peek inside Hippolyte. Are you going to requeen her this year?

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    1. LOL! As long as the bees are still alive, I like seeing honey in the spring -- it's even better than an income tax refund. I mark the bars of old honey and use those first for splits and for feeding. When it's time to take honey, I'll take new honey for myself. :-)

      Will definitely suit up for Hippolyte. She's really mean. On the other hand, she's also super prolific and a honey maker, so I'm wavering on requeening her. Maybe, I'll just split her and see if her daughters are any cooler... but still as productive as their mom.

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  2. Yay! Awesome report. I'm so happy for you. — Holly

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  3. Julie,

    Glad your starting to feel better and that the girls all seem to be thriving. So the insulted hive seemed to bring the best results? I'm going to look back in your post to see again what you did. My girls didn't make it. They where a swarm from last spring. I'm bummed but not crushed like last year. I was able to look threw the remains and figure out some things. 1st I was blaming the cold snap we had on Feb 14th weekend, even thou I gave them insulation around the hive, but once inside I noticed they had nothing left, no honey, no pollen, no eggs, lots of queen cells on edges. So I'm guessing a combination of not having enough food (my bad, I thought they seemed loaded) and no queen did them in. However my yard is still filled with bees like last year. So I'm working on trying to lure a swarm, who knows maybe 3 times a charm.

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    1. So sorry to hear about your hive. :-( If they had loads of queen cells around the edges, that means your queen died, and they were trying to replace her. Did you have a lot of mites on the bottom board? That's great that you're able to lure swarms, though. Hope you have better luck this year.

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    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    3. HB -- I saw your comment this morning, but I don't know what happened to it. You raised a good point, though. They could've swarmed late last season, too. When was the last time your hive was alive, Mavis?

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    4. Sorry, I deleted it. I typed it on a mobile device late last night, so it was only half a thought. What I wrote was that queen cells on the edge of combs usually indicate swarm cells since the bees can chose a spot where there's room to build the longer queen chamber. Emergency queen cells are typically built on a comb face, where any viable egg or larva might be. At this time of year, an emergency requeening would be attempted in the center of the cluster/on a comb face.

      I thought (last night) that maybe Mavis' colony swarmed late in the season and that's why it didn't survive winter. If she did have a late season swarm, the colony would've been small and easily robbed, which could explain the lack of honey. If her yard is filled with bees, there's a good chance a strong (thieving) colony is nearby.

      I'd like to see pictures of the queen cells. For some reason, I'm getting the feeling that Mavis is seeing queen cups, which are very common in top bar hives. — Holly

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  4. I have tons of pictures not sure how to add them here. Last time girls were active was January 31st, I saw what I thought was a few drones being killed about 7 of them. I watched to make sure they were not being robbed, didn't see any bees bring anything out. Didn't want to break their propolis on the sides, since I knew cold weather was due to return the next day. I will check how to sent pictures.

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    1. What a bummer. A couple of winters ago, I had a hive that lost its queen in the middle of winter -- around Jan or Feb, and I got some queen cells (they had eggs and larvae in them) in that hive. It's really too bad because when they lose their queen mid-winter, there's just nothing that can be done for them. Even if they can make a new queen, she won't be mated. The only thing to do is cross your fingers for next year.

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  5. Congratulations on your surviving hives. Unfortunately mine did not make it but they survived last winter. I didn't do a real through autopsy but looking quickly I had tons of honey in the one hive and thought maybe she was honey bound.

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    1. So sorry to hear that your hives didn't make it. :-( It's very normal to see lots of honey and no brood during winter, so they probably weren't honey bound. Being honey bound also usually stimulates swarming. Hope you get a chance to do an autopsy and figure out what happened.

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