Thursday, February 13, 2014

My Cup is 2/3 Full

This is the first day anywhere approaching the warmth of just above freezing, so I had to get out to check on the bees.  It has been exceptionally cold.  It was 18 below zero the other night, a high of only 6 degrees yesterday.  Today it was edging above 35 and sunny.
I started with hive #2.  This hive came through last winter very strong, so much so that I was able to do 3 splits from it and still take about 100 pounds of honey.  We left probably 80 pounds of honey in the hive for the winter.  When I did the final warm weather check, the queen was still laying and the bees looked very healthy.
I didn't see any dead bees on the fresh snow in front of the hive and none flying, though, which concerned me.  As soon as I opened it, I noticed a lot of frost on the inner cover and this pile of dead bees.  Pulling a few frames from the middle, though, there was no evidence the bees had eaten any of this honey.  The top box was still full of food.  Looking at the frames I pulled, though, I saw a lot of evidence of nosema.
Note the long brown streaks on the frame (with good, untouched honey).  I'll need to do some research to see what I need to do to these contaminated frames.  I did not treat in the fall for nosema and will need to study this as well.  I hate to lose this queen, who was a fantastic layer.
This is hive #1 and those are live bees on top.  I again saw frost on the inner cover and no sign of life upon opening, but as I began to work a frame loose bees began to crawl up through the frames.  Top box is still full of honey here as well, but I placed a patty on top anyway just for good measure.  This hive had no apparent laying queen when I last opened them up so I hope she was just not laying.  This is the offspring of the queen from hive #2 so I hope she survives.

Hive #3, the 8 framer, also had no dead bees in front or actively flying bees.  As soon as I opened it, though, there was a squirming mass in the slot of the inner cover.  I took it off and the top of the frames were totally covered with bees.  They were definitely not happy with being disturbed, and when I tried to peek a bit more at a frame to check on honey many took to the air, with quite a few striking me in the (veiled) face and buzzing angrily.  I gave them a patty and gently closed them up.  I had several follow me the couple hundred feet up to and into the barn.  I don't use smoke in the winter, but may with this particular group of characters.

So, two out of three is probably better than I anticipated, and, if we make it through into spring, twice as strong as what we started with last year.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Amazing Bee Photos

The U.S. Army has developed a new technique that was applied to photographing bees of America.  To see these amazing images presented by the National Geographic Society, click here.