Yard Visit End of May 2013

The bad weather continued through the third week in May. It’s still cool. But not cold enough to keep the bees from flying.

So today, I opened up the broodnests and:

  • inspected the brood pattern
  • looked for signs of pests and disease
  • fed where needed
  • switched to a top entrance
  • added a third deep box

The Good News

The brood patterns were compact and solid.

There was absolutely no sign of any brood disease. I suspect the few dead larva noticed earlier in May were chilled. And that’s great news as any signs of slow motion colony collapse disorder would have been the end of my equipment and probably my beekeeping.

There were lots of drone larva/pupa in ladder comb between the boxes. Separating the boxes exposes the brood where they are easily checked for varroa mites. Not a single mite was found.

And the bees were finally making a living with little sugar consumed. No additional feed was needed.

The Bad News

The strongest hive and the weak hive swarmed. And with the unsettled weather, the new virgin queens were unable to successfully mate. These hives now have:

  • 1/3 the bees they had a month ago
  • a few frames of sealed brood
  • no eggs or larva to raise another queen
  • and not chance to succeed on their own

If I could have checker boarded these hives they probably wouldn’t have swarmed. But I didn’t have a third box of comb to work with. And it was just to cold to do anything else.

Working with nature requires giving as well as taking. I hope those swarms make it.

The remaining queenless colonies are much smaller than expected. It’s not unusual for bees to drift from a queenless hive to a queenright one when survival get tough.

And the two queenright hives show that effect. They are jammed with bees, brood and food. One of them, a hot one, is superceding their queen. Can’t say I hate to see her go. Maybe the next one will be more calm.

In a warmer season, the queenless hives would get a frame of eggs and young larva from another hive. But this season is cool and almost 3 weeks behind normal. No time for that now. I’ll:

  • combine them
  • give them a frame with a sealed supercedure queen cell from the hot hive
  • and hope for the best

Top Entrances

The one thing that’s been consistent with my beekeeping, since returning from Florida, is skunk trouble. The extreme drought has concentrated the skunks along the river where I keep my bees.

I’ve tried some natural and some not-so-natural solutions. No signs of any skunk depredations yet. But it’s still early, wet and cool. When the prairie dries up, they will be back.

This year, top entrances are my attempt at a pre-emptive fix. I’ve:

  • replaced the migratory covers with migratory bottom boards
  • bottom entrances were plugged with wooden strips
  • and entrance reducers were inserted in the new top entrance

I’ve never tried a top entrances before. But as a commercial beekeeper, I’ve worked many hundreds of hives that inadvertently had top entrances resulting from a busted or rotten cover.

I learned to hate them. Usually they were nasty to work. And I’d more often than not take a beating. So, when a couple of them were on my side of the yard, I’d:

  • suit up with gloves
  • tie my pant legs closed
  • refill the smoker
  • tighten the veil
  • and work those hives last

Maybe I’ve created a monster. šŸ˜‰

Photos

I forgot to take my camera. But still had my 5 year old cell phone. So, I used it instead.

  • got home
  • emailed the images to myself
  • nothing
  • no sign of them anywhere but on my phone

Could Verizon be trying to push a new smart phone and data plan on me? At almost $400 more a year, they might get a surprise.

If the photos turn up, I’ll post them here.

Certainty

Looking at how my hives came through the winter and early spring, I expected a much better start. But depending on how things go, I could end up with 2 great and 1 average hives.

Mating problems could reduce my hive count to 1! I’d like to get busy and introduce some queens. But my schedule prevents me from working the bees for the next two weeks. What will bee, will bee.

That’s beekeeping for you.

-bW

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