Friday, April 15, 2016


Two weeks ago, the bees were booming, and the weather was reasonably warm. Magnolias were starting to bloom, and the bees seemed to be interested in building nothing but drone comb. To delay swarming, I added some empty bars on either end of the nest. The strongest colonies even got a couple of empty bars in the brood nest.

Then we got snow and cold and rain. All the maple and magnolia blossoms withered, and I worried that any closed buds might be killed, too. Other local beekeepers were sharing posts about all the peach buds dying in the last Feb cold snap and how all the forage was being frozen by the current one. Everyone was expecting a two-week interruption in pollen and lots of chilled brood. I thought about giving them some combs of pollen I'd saved, but it was too cold to open the hives, and I was going out of town anyway. Mentally, I kicked myself repeatedly for giving the colonies so much room. I feel like I owe the girls some some of confession. "Bees, forgive me for I have been careless and negligent. It's been 13 days since my last inspection."

This is exactly how I feel right now.

Anyway, when I came back from New Hampshire, the magnolias were in bloom again. They weren't loaded with flowers, but at least the snow hadn't killed all the buds. Purple deadnettle and creeping Charlie (or maybe it's henbit, I have trouble remembering which is which) were turning my lawn purple.

Creeping Charlie (I think)

Purple deadnettle

Before beginning today's inspection, I observed lots of bees coming and going at the entrance with plenty of pollen. Drones were flying about, too, it seems my incompetence had not killed them.


During the last inspection, Austeja had a good brood pattern, but just didn't have a lot of brood overall. The two capped bars she got from Hippolyte have made an enormous difference. She was positively bustling today. The donated bars from Hippolyte even had capped brood and larvae in them, which means all the capped brood emerged, and a new round of brood is being raised.

Weird puddles of water on bars. Don't know where this moisture is from.
Looks like some more renovation is in my future. 

Peach, Elsa, Hippolyte

During the last inspection, these colonies were the strongest, so in addition to empty bars on either end of the nest, I'd also inserted some empties directly in the brood nest, all of which were being drawn out and filled with brood.

Elsa had three queen cups. I don't think she's close to swarming yet, but it looks like she's warming up. In addition to opening the brood nest some more, I also donated a bar of brood from her to Buttercup.

Empty queen cups from Elsa

Hard to see in this photo, but there is a teeny-weeny acorn cap incorporated into this comb.
So weird.
First mite I've seen this season
Almost didn't see Elsa's queen because she was hiding out under a pile of bees.
She kept running around, so this is the best picture I could get.
Hippolyte is booming, and it just kills me that she's so mean. Why couldn't she be productive and sweet? No stings today -- at least none that penetrated my gloves -- but I just can't make up my mind about her. I'll definitely split her, but I can't decide if I should take my chances and see if her daughters are more even-tempered or if I should just give the splits new, gentle queens off the bat. A third option is to just see what happens if she raises her own queens, and then requeen her if it doesn't work out. Hippolyte also donated a bar to Persephone.

Peach looks amazing. This one will get split soon, too, I think.

Peach's queen

Buttercup & Persephone

Both of these colonies are doing so-so. Although everything is in order, they aren't exhibiting the same sort of growth as the other colonies. Persephone (nee Bubblegum) is a surprise because she was incredibly productive last year. Figuring that what worked for Austeja should work for them, they each got a bar of brood.

Overall, I didn't see as much capped brood in any of the hives as I would have expected. I don't know if this is because they got a lot of chilled brood and cleaned house, or if it's because they're just keeping the brakes on until spring is truly here, or if it's something to do with the queens. In any case, I'm just glad they're all still alive.


  1. Glad to hear things are just buzzing along in your bee yeard. Hopefully winter is over for you and the queens will start laying in earnest. Love that little acorn cap and how it just got incorporated into the comb!

    I've heard that bees don't use old pollen and in my experience, they seem to ignore the combs I give them that do have pollen on them. What's your experience been with that?

    1. Don, I've read that pollen degrades in quality as time goes on, so makes sense the bees would ignore order pollen if they have good forage available. I assume they will clean it out on their own, but not certain.

    2. That's a good point about the old pollen.

      Honestly, I don't really know the answer to your question, because I can't think of what happened to the old pollen from last year. (By old pollen, I mean pollen left over from winter.) In any case, I guess it's no longer an issue now that things have warmed up again. Maybe I'll freeze the pollen and harvest it -- I've read that it can be added to mead to help fermentation.

  2. So glad to hear your hives are doing well! Hoping our eastern blooms will kick into high gear sometime soon and give the bees a chance to really store up some nectar. Travelling out west but look forward to getting back to mine as well.

    1. I've noticed that are dandelions are beginning to pop up here and theres, yours may be in full swing by the time you get home. Safe travels!

    2. Yes, we had bees on the dandelions last week. The big trees are probably blooming now, if I had to guess.


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