Woo hoo! The bees are combing!
Here we are at the start of week 4 and comb production is well under way. We've had a couple of cold snaps with night time temperatures below freezing, so I was concerned that progress would come to a crawl. I didn't want to open up the hives in the cold to check on them either. So I'm thankful we are starting to warm up again.
When I opened up the upper brood supers I found that nearly all the bees were conveniently in the bottom brood chamber this time (it was still cool out this morning, so they were huddling together for warmth). So I filled up the internal feeders with syrup and set the upper super to the side. That's when I saw it. Beautiful, fresh honeycomb practically overflowing between two of the frames. As I pulled the frames out to inspect, I found nearly two and a half frames were filled. Egg laying had already begun and some of the cells were filled with freshly collected pollen. Others near the edges of the frames appeared to have some honey in them. Of course, while tempted to sample, everything there is for the bees.
In just a little over a week they've gone from having hardly any comb to nearly filling two and a half frames. All I can say is - Amazing. Even though there are thousands of them, their work ethic really puts me to shame. The second hive was a near duplicate of the first.
There is no comb building going on in the upper brood supers, which is good. But the thirsty little guys did manage to drink down all three quarts of syrup in both internal hive feeders. On my next hive opening in about two weeks, I'll try to get some better pictures to share. It will probably be time to rotate some of the full frames to the outer edge of the hive and bring the empty ones to the center.
After weeks of nights in the 40's - 50s F, spring did its thing this past weekend and the nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing. It seems everything survived though, except one beautiful tomato plant that already had good sized fruit on it. The bees hunkered down for the couple of cold days and I hardly saw a peep from them.
But today, the bees will wake up to a big surprise! Right in the middle of the freeze, one of our crabapple trees burst into full bloom. Great timing, as the days and weeks ahead are returning to mild temperatures and the bees need the pollen and nectar to begin building for the summer ahead.
At just under one week since homing the new hives, I was excited to see for the first time, that the bees were actively bringing pollen back to the hive. I also noted that there were a good number of the male drones. So, this morning I planned to check and make certain that the queens had been set free from their boxes and that all was in good condition. Well, everyone was fine, but I was surprised that there was not one stitch of comb started yet.
The daily weather has been in the high 60s to mid-70s and the nights in the 50s. But last night dropped to freezing. It’ll be the same for tonight and then pop back up again. It is a bit harder for the bees to work the wax if the hive temperature is not up.
I also discovered that both hives completely drained their 3-quart in hive liquid syrup feeders – thirsty little critters. That, I did not expect. In nature, when nectar flows from the flowers, it stimulates wax extruding. That can be artificially stimulated by feeding them a 2:1 water to sugar syrup. My concern here is, that they need comb for the queen to lay eggs in and raise new workers. New works are more productive at comb building. This demonstrates to me the difference between buying a nucleus hive that comes with brood and honey comb already in it and just plain boxed bees. Both can thrive, but the "nuc" hive gets a little bit of a head start.
So, I moved the feeder into the top brood box so that I don’t have to disturb the hive so much to refill it. I’ve also decided to add an external feeder jar so that I can better monitor their consumption and refill more easily. I’ll check the external and refill every day as needed but won’t check the internal feeder again until next week.
Well, I’m sure the bees know more about what they need to do than I do. Given that they are healthy and robust, I’ll trust in them to do what is necessary. In the meantime, I’ll just keep an eye on them and do my job of keeping their syrup filled.
Did you know that a few good flowering trees can produce more honey than a few acres of flower gardens? It's true. But don't let that stop you from planting flowers, because they help too and often start blooming after the trees have finished.
Trees are generally the first plants to begin flowering and producing pollen desirable to the bees. Some of the important flowering Arkansas trees that bees love include Redbud, Wild Cherry, Honey Locust, and Sourwood. Basswood is another favorite. From just a few of these trees, the bees can get an early start at producing many gallons of honey as they come out of winter and prepare for the long hot summer. We are blessed to have some of each of these trees here on our property and look forward to the wonderful honey flavors that will come from them.
Right now the Redbuds are in full bloom with the Cherries just getting ready to pop. The Honey Locust will come next in April/May followed by the the Sourwood and Basswood.
We received our bees in good shape from Mountain Sweet Honey on Wednesday morning (3/28). It rained almost continuously until Thursday morning. I was finally able to home them around 10 am when the rain finally stopped. It was about 65 F and the bees were well behaved. Though the sun began warming them up, I didn't need to smoke them to keep them calm. By the end of the day, they were happily buzzing in and out of their new homes.
The first container I opened and homed had maybe 30 - 50 dead bees, but in general, the rest were active and healthy looking. I attribute the dead bees to shipping trauma. The queen and attendants were all active and in good shape. I removed the cork from the queen box so the workers could release her into the nest. This morning (3/30) when I checked the hive, it was still cool enough that the bees were not coming out yet. The majority of the bees were in the lower brood box. All appeared good and all the bees that didn't initially come out of the shipping container had vacated to their new home.
The second container had about 100+ dead bees in the bottom. The queen and attendants were in good shape, but a little sluggish compared to the first container. There was one dead attendant in the queen box. I'll be checking on them in a few days. When I checked the hive this morning, about 75% of the bees were in the lower brood box and about 25% in the upper. There are also about 50 live bees still in the shipping container that haven't yet vacated.
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