Monday, March 22, 2010

Healthy Bees

Well, this weekend I was able to go into the hives to see how the bees really did over the winter. Queen Dolly's hive looked great from the outside, with hundreds of bees coming and going from morning till evening on warm days. Queen Grace's hive was lighter, but still had some activity in the last week. Queen Loretta's hive had shown almost no activity at the door, though rapping on the side brought a recognizable hum. I had no idea what to expect when I got inside.

As I worked my way into each hive, it became apparent that each was very different from the others after this cold, wet, long winter. Grace, as expected, was FULL of bees and brood (young, new bee larvae and pupae). The hive was clearly healthy and already booming for the spring. I moved the bottom of the three brood boxes, which was almost empty - as is expected this time of year - up to the top, to give the queen more room for even more brood. Then, because there were so many bees and things were moving so quickly in this hive, I added the queen excluder and a shallow honey super. A little too soon? Maybe, but worth a shot!

Next we checked out Loretta. Remember, she had almost no movement at the front door over the last few weeks as the weather warmed. However, when I got in the hive, it was full of bees. There also was quite a bit of brood in the two upper brood boxes. Since all looked well, I simply moved the empty bottom box up to the top, and closed up the hive. Why so little movement outside the hive if there are so many bees? I don't know, but my guess is that this location, although only a few feet away, gets different sunlight and therefor is not as warm inside, resulting in a slightly later spring push. It is even possible that the bees that are there are still needed inside to keep the fairly large quantity of brood warm! All in all, again a healthy hive, with no sign of pests or diseases, and good signs that the queen is alive and well.

Last, we checked on the hive of Queen Grace. She is the queen of the swarm captured last year when Dolly's hive swarmed. This hive was honey bound! That means that there was so much honey left over from last fall, it took up all the space needed for the queen to lay eggs to start the spring build up of the hive. We removed a full box (8 medium frames) of honey: more than two gallons of tasty, very dark, fall honey. I shifted Queen Grace and her small patch of brood to the middle of her box, moved the empty bottom box up above, and then placed a third box of empty foundation on top. (I didn't have any drawn comb!). I will check back soon to be sure there is an active queen, as there were very few bees and much less brood than the other hives. I did see some eggs, so I think we will be OK here.

So, there you have it. Three healthy hives. No diseases. No obvious pests. 3 very different boxes of brood and bees. An unusual and unexpected honey harvest in March!! Lets see how they do now that they are better situated for spring.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ahhh, Spring!

Yes, despite the constant cold wind, it does appear that Spring actually is on the horizon. Seeds of turnips, lettuces, beets and carrots are all up in neat rows in my vegetable beds. (Check out the footprints of our 80 lb. dog, next to the turnip seedlings. For some reason he can't resist jumping up into the beds this spring. Too cute to kill, however.) A few peas have popped up as well. Cilantro from last years seed heads has made a thick mat in the front ornamental bed. The rosemary that I did not yet prune (bad, bad gardener) is boasting new blossoms beside the freeze dried blossoms of winter. Spring eggs are again perfect for Sunday morning oven puffed pancakes.

Best of all? Bees are coming and going from all three hives. Dolly's hive was especially active this weekend, and put on a real show with hundreds of bees performing an orientation flight in front of the hive, then speeding off to bring back huge loads of pollen. Maybe all three hives actually made it through the long, cold winter without too much loss. I will know for sure as soon as we get a truly warm day so I can check the hives. (My location beside the now cold waters of the sound and bay, with a Northern exposure, has just not been warm enough to break open the hives for a spring evaluation.)

Everything in the garden, except for the ornamental beds full of weeds, just feels good. About time.