Sunday, April 6, 2014

two hives

Over the past couple of weeks, I have had a chance to go into each of my two hives, but with very different results.  Here's what I found.

Hive One

This hive has developed slowly, but steadily, ever since we installed it as a three pound package last spring.  Going into winter, it seemed well stocked with honey and I treated it for mites with a natural thymol based miticide.  I had been feeding it candy since January, and the cluster was high and small.  It was obviously getting smaller and smaller each time I fed it, but I had hopes it was going to make it.  But recently, I noticed on a warm day that no bees were flying.  When I went into the hive, it was quickly apparent that sometime during the prior week it had died.  It was like Pompeii in there, all the bees seemingly frozen in position.  Many bees were head into cells, searching for food when they died from what appears to be starvation.  

We believe that likely what happened here was that a few days of warmth had encouraged the small cluster to spread out a bit on the frames, eating away from the center of the cluster.  Then, we had a few days of harsh cold and the bees retracted to a tight cluster again, but had eaten all the food close enough to reach.  Once in the tight cluster again, especially if there was any brood in the cluster, they were not willing to go very far to get to a food source.  And so they starved, with candy I had fed them nearly touching them and honey within inches.  

There are frames full of capped honey in the hive.  I considered extracting some, but wiser beekeepers advised me, given that I had treated for mites while these frames were in the hive, the honey would taste a bit medicinal.  So we have decided to leave it.

And there are gorgeous frames of pollen in a multitude of colors.

With the hive eerily quiet, with no bees to cause me to hurry, I was able to do a full inspection.  I found all sorts of interesting things such as these queen cells.

The good news for this hive, though it is empty and closed up for now, is that it is going to provide an excellent and ready to move in home for the package of Italian bees we have ordered to replace them.  These new bees will move in, have very little building of comb to do, and can jump right into building up their brood, consuming the pollen and honey there for them, and then hopefully, creating a large crop of honey for us mid summer.

It's like a home with the lights on, waiting for the new owners.

Hive Two

This is what I call my Swarm Hive, as we believe it swarmed in late summer while we were away, and we later found and marked a new queen.   Therefore, this hive has a queen that mated here, with Maine native drones and the bees are therefore half Georgia imported bee and half Maine native bee, genetically speaking.

These hardy Maine genes seem to have helped, because they are healthy, active, out and about, and the cluster is huge.  I am going to need to split it into two hives within the next month.

I watched the bees flying about before I opened it and had a chance to see, quite excitingly, that the bees were coming back from foraging with their pollen sacs filled with pale yellow pollen.  

Look closely at their legs, where their knees would be.  Do you see the small pale yellow bulbous areas?  That's pollen.  Something is in bloom.  I am thinking a patch of maples in the early spring warm sun has flowered.  And we saw crocuses on our walk to school this morning.

After watching them fly in for a bit, I popped the top, for a few moments.  They are much more mellow now than they were a few weeks ago.  Perhaps their successful foraging is helping.  

Fingers crossed, this one hive should become two by mid summer.  That, plus the first hive with a new package of bees, and our beekeeping year has begun.

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