Springtime Bees

Springtime means lots of activity at the hive, or some I’m told.

As this is our First spring time with our bees, I’m still quite eager to watch what happens with the colony, how things change, and what I might do to make the bees, well, happier. I often consider the answer to the last question is to leave them alone, not mess with their hive or take their honey, but that’s not good enough for me.. I want to Engineer them.. in that wholesome organic natural happy way.. HA!

Today’s hive evaluation was two weeks and two days since I last opened the hive and I expected much to have changed. I had added a second deep two weeks ago and had fiddled with the frames a bit, moving one brood frame up and replacing it with an empty, undrawn frame (all plastic). Today, I found what I imagine ALL beekeepers find when sorting through the boxes. Manic Depression. :)

The Manic:

  1. The hive is growING! The size of the hive has increased significantly and according to the amount of brood on the frames will continue to do so.
  2. I’ve got a great number of drones walking around and activity within the hive is high, with bees on every frame.
  3. They’re making honey, lots of it, even after all those rainy cold days. They’re going to survive!

The Depressive:

  1. They’re building comb perpendicular to the foundation. Pulling out a few frames, I’m finding they’re not building comb along the foundation, like they have in the past, but out, off the foundation. Perpendicular to the rest of the hive orientation. As the comb grows in size it covers more of the foundation, but I did not get the impression they wanted it to. with nooks and crannies all over the bulging comb, it’s become quite the maze for the colony and a significant change from the ordered one, two, ten of the parallel frames. But, it seems there is not much I can do aside from buying wax foundation, which I’m reluctant to do. Though I’m considering empty frames – no foundation… hmmm
  2. They’re building brood between upper and lower deep. Golf ball sized collections of brood have cropped up along the bottom of the upper deep and, obviously, the top of the lower deep. Each group has four to twelve cells in it and after pulling frames out today, I found that any activity in the hive decimates these cells and their contents, very little of which was honey or pollen. Sadly.
  3. They’ve got mites. I’ve seen a couple of mites in the past. One here on the ground, another at the entrance, and once on a bee that I couldn’t track down fast enough to confirm. However, yesterday I snagged one bee with it’s red-headed guest, got a photo of it and confirmed my fears. Now to treat or to leave be?

While these things are a bit daunting, I’m still excited to see how the colony changes throughout the year as I become more aware of the activities of bees.. a strange and fascinating little insect.

Seeking The Queen-Bee

The sun peeked out this afternoon after a solid week of rain and we decided to open up the hive and see how the bees are adjusting to the move. By external observations I’m seeing the bees return with pollen, previously orange, I found this lady with white pollen. I wonder where she was playing?

She's got white pollen. I'm curious where she got it.

Unfortunately, after smoking ourselves and then dawning the suit we attracted the attention of a couple neighbors walking by. The secret is now out. Hopefully this doesn’t cause any trouble down the line.

Opening the hive, I found the super to be virtually empty of bees, however they had done an excellent job uncapping some of the honey and draining the cells. Though there was still plenty to have. The top brood box was in a similar state. Empty of bees, with a little bit of action on the full honey frames. However, once I got to the bottom brood, where I had left the bees a week ago, my expectations were high.

… though I should pause here to think a bit.  Understanding that when I pulled the burr-comb out 12 days ago I halted ALL bee making business, as I removed all Brood from the hive. So any hive growth would have been, well, unnatural.. cosmic? spontaneous? I’m not sure why I was expecting such an explosion in population when I know that it takes 21 days to develop a bee. So when I found the box stagnant, my heart sank, but only momentarily until my rational, as discussed, kicked in. I then carefully evaluated each frame until I arrived at the bee covered frames. Arriving at the bees I slowed down and carefully examined each frame. Honey-flip-honey, replace. Then Brood-flip-brood, larvae, and…. eggs! she’s been here! (PHOTOS HERE)

Looking closely at this photo you'll see eggs, larvae, and capped larvae to pre-pupae. (Bottom Up)

Let me take a minute to remember the developmental cycle of the bee… Eggs are laid (the tiny grain like objects in the bottom of the photo), and are eggs for three days, then they develop into larvae and smothered in royal jelly (the white coils, mid-photo). They are larvae until 7-8 days. At that point the cells are capped and the bee develops into a pupae (brown cells at the top of the photo). Remembering that the oldest development could have only started 12 days ago, my oldest developed bee is in it’s ‘white-eyed’ stage and still has close to 10 days left in it’s development, which means the first bees to be born here are going to be Christmas Bees!

As you can see from the photo, we found the a good collection of brood, larvae, and eggs, which means the queen had been in the hive within the last three days… and that means she was most likely sitting on the frame of bees I was looking at. I examined closer and then POP! there she was (that was a figurative pop)

Bees on a frame with brood. Can you find the Queen?

I gently replaced the ‘queen-frame’ and then slowly scooted the other frames over. Made some changes to center the brood frame in the hive and wrapped everything back up. I was pleased with the relative ease of the event and returned to sweeping the bricks.