Friday, April 5, 2013

Reversal, minimal hive inspection

With a temperature in the mid-fifties, and with rain forecast through the coming week, I decided to take a look into the hive and do a reversal.  I also wanted to do a spring mite treatment and put a new bottom board in place. 

She loaded up from one of the few blooming crocuses



Bees were flying as we came to the hive.  They have only been using the top entrance, which is one reason I wanted to replace the bottom board.  Either there was a big blockage, a lot of dead bees or some other explanation.

In the top box (of 3 mediums), I pulled a frame second from the end.  It was pretty much empty, drawn (older) comb, but covered with bees.  The next frame towards the center had some honey and, thankfully, some capped brood and young larva.  Hurrah!  I slid that frame over and checked the next, which had even more capped brood.  I looked quickly for the queen but didn't see her.  On the next frame, though, I spotted her right away--a big, fat queen.  She looked very healthy and very capable of laying many, many eggs.  I snugged that frame carefully right back in place, pulled the box and set it aside, with the inner cover on top to help keep it warm.

Bees were settling down quickly after the reversal
In the middle box, we found plenty of frames of honey.  Clearly, these bees had more than adequate stores for the winter, which is what I experienced with both hives last year and which makes the death of the other hive even more puzzling.  Now, instead of thinking I had just miscalculated the amount of honey I had left the bees, I'm thinking more in terms of disease or poisoning, and leaning towards the former.  Disease may have ravaged what had been a very healthy looking hive when I wrapped it for the winter, leaving not enough mass of bees to keep warm, even though they must have eaten a lot of honey.  In cleaning up that hive this past week, though, I discovered much more remaining honey than I had originally thought in January when I took the hive apart.

We pulled the bottom box off, removed the old screened bottom board and replaced it with a new  one.  There was a fair pile of dead bees on the screen, and perhaps this was why the bees were not using this entrance.  We re-assembled the hive, in reverse order, putting Hopguard strips on the bottom two boxes.  The 8 or 9 frames of honey that were left from the old hive I put into a box where the old hive had sat, on a bottom board and covered with a lid so they can go ahead and rob that.

My plan is to do a reversal towards the end of April.  This hive looks very healthy, has a vigorous queen, and once the temps get up in the sixties or seventies, I'll do a split.  One further interesting note--there were many, many bees loaded with pollen already.  It was a very light color, almost white.  With very few blossoming flowers, it has to be from trees.

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