Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Winter Beekeeping Update

We took advantage of today's partly sunny weather to conduct a quick bee inspection.

First up: Mud Honey Hive. 

You might recall that at the end of the season we combined our Mud Honey and Swarm hives together. It was a messy process. The Swarm hive was quite a bit stronger than we had anticipated and consequently, we were unable to go from four deep boxes to two, which is standard. We ended up with a packed, three box hive. Not exactly ideal. We meant to take it down to two deeps but fall got away from us and that cold snap made it difficult to open it up. Until today.

We inspected all three boxes, removed the top one (which was lightest), switched the bottom two boxes and replaced the bottom board (which had warped). Even better, we spotted our queen! Looking good, lady, looking good. She was unmarked.

Not surprisingly, the hive was low on stored honey. We tried to give them the frames that were the most packed with honey and pollen. Since we had removed one of the deeps, we had 10 frames that were partially filled. Those we scored with a fork and placed in front of the hive for the girls to pick clean. We also stuck a grease patty and a feeder (with both HoneyBHealthy and fumagilin) on top. So far, so good.

Next up: Blue Moon Hive.

Blue Moon was a slightly different story. In September, we stuck a honey super on top of the hive after harvesting so the girls could pick it clean. Instead, they filled it back up again with honey! We decided that they could go ahead and keep their newly stored honey and left the super on for the duration of the fall and winter. However, it is important to remove honey supers when feeding or medicating bees because we don't want to harvest medicated honey, come August. Since we were preparing to medicate, the super had to go. We removed the super, scored the frames and set them out front to be picked clean. We switched the two deeps and put a grease patty down. They had decent stores so we refrained from slapping on a feeder.

Now for the bad news: We observed quite a few drone larvae and cells with eggs that were not placed directly on the bottom of each cell, but on the sides. Egg patterns were spotty in the extreme. Is it really possible that we have a laying worker? AGAIN? Why us?

Not good news.

Time to order a new queen, I guess.

We had fairly good luck with our 'push-in' cage last time, perhaps we'll give it another go. We'll keep you posted.

Hard to see in this photo, but we placed a few honey-filled frames outside of the hive for the girls to clean up. Unfortunately, it's supposed to rain tomorrow. Honey bees typically don't go out when it rains. Consequently, we decided to conduct a wee experiment: if we tent the frames (hereby protecting them from the rain), will the bees venture out to conduct the remainder of their cleanup duties? Or will they not even peep out the front door?

Mom and I decided that while we are not the best, most detailed, and talented beekeepers of all time, we're definitely in the running for most creative....

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