Sunday, February 26, 2012

Early season inspection shows queen failure, honey stores

Mark & I went to Bee Hill this afternoon. When we arrived, the bees appeared to be busy.

Except in Hive 6. As Mark got his gear together, I took photos as usual, and I noticed no activity at the entrance of Hive 6. My initial fears were confirmed when we opened the hive. Combs full of honey, not a single cell of brood, and a small handful of bees -- not even 2 full frames of workers in a stack of 2 deeps and 2 mediums. Classic queen failure. Examination of photos taken a month ago show evidence of a strong population gathered on the front of the hive -- so something must have happened soon after we last drove past for a visual check. Mark cleaned up the frames (lots of burr comb) and we brought them back to the house to put in the deep freeze until we need them for splits.

 A quick examination of the rest of the colonies shows all have plenty of honey stores -- we're not overly worried at this point about them starving.

Some populations are stronger than others, and no drones were seen.

The bees are bringing in honey, some yellow, and if you can see in the photo below (the second bee from the lower left, not really in focus) -- red pollen!

Mark cleaned out all of the oil traps. This is one of those times his insensitivity to odors comes in handy. The sludge in the oil traps is just nasty.

Once we finished our beekeeping tasks and returned our gear to the house, we went on a 4-wheeler ride around our property. Tiny white flowers are in bloom, as is henbit, and the clover is "about to pop" as Mark says. If all goes well, the bees should have plenty of stores and new plants to forage on. We're not overly concerned about crowding and swarms at this point, at least at Bee Hill.

We found one small shed deer antler -- it's the time of year when the bucks lose their racks, and Mark is always hopeful he'll find a big treasure out in the field. I listened to the birds calling and answering as he hiked around, and marveled that we could be out in a green field at the end of February. I feel blessed!

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