Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Quick Peek Inside the Hives

The other day I posted on our facebook page that we were celebrating.  All three beehives had bees flying in and out AND we saw bees carrying in pollen already!  At this time of year, the pollen is coming from trees like maples, willows and elm.


While this was very encouraging, what we really wanted to do was look inside- just to get a quick peek to see if they were eating any of the granulated sugar we placed in the back (as a back up food source if they had run out) and, well, to see if they had any stores left of their own.

The following day was beautiful- a little breezy and a balmy 78 degrees, according to our thermometer. Jamey came home earlier than I expected, so out we went.  


None of the hives seemed to be taking any of the sugar.  In the back of each one, there were a few empty combs (to be expected) and in front of those...capped honey.  Each hive had at least a couple combs mostly covered in capped honey, showing us that, yes, for now they have food.




We were tempted to go further into the hive but didn't want to disturb whatever size brood nest might be started.  There are fewer bees this time of year and with the temps still dipping low at night, we didn't want to chill the nursery or disturb them too much.  In a couple weeks, if it stays nice and warm, we'll go back in and make sure the honey is close to the nursery and they have room to expand the nest as the queen starts laying more.

Two of the hives had excess moisture.  This could be seen in one by a little mold on a few of the back (empty) combs.  In the other hive, we could tell the divider was damp.  The combs still smelled sweet so we didn't think it was anything more than a little mold but I couldn't remember what to do about this, so we broke off the three moldy combs and put the top bars back in the hive.  In the one with the damp divider, we spaced it out from the back combs with some empty bars to increase circulation.


After reading this post, I realized that our breaking off of the moldy combs may have been premature.  It sounds like once they would have dried out, the bees would have cleaned them out well and then used them. Oh, well.  Instead, I'm melting them down for wax to use in making fire starters.


We know that spring can actually be a pretty precarious time for bees.  The pollen and nectar flow comes in fits and starts and the temps see-saw back and forth.  We need to keep a close eye on their food and their ability to reach it.  If they look like they are struggling, we'll use sugar syrup again.

my bee notebook enjoying the breeze and sun on the counter

For now, we are encouraged and can't wait to see our honey bees pollinating all our fruit trees and bushes this spring.


This last picture is just to make sure the chickens don't feel too left out after all the bee talk.
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6 comments:

  1. I love your sense of humor and enjoy reading about all your projects! :)

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  2. I love your bees!! I've been wanting to have bee hives, but have NO clue what to do or how. Good for you!

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  3. Hello! What are your chickens in? Is that a fallen over tomato cage covered with hay? Or something that you've created for them?
    Love your blog!
    Rebekah

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    1. Hi, Rebekah! They are tomato cages. We keep a few on hand and lay them on top of where the fall garlic was planted. The chickens do a lot of scratching in the garden all winter and this keeps them from scratching up the garlic. The garlic can still poke through even with the cages are there. Once the chickens are banished, we remove the cages. I believe one of my daughters put the straw on top when helping Jamey spread a new layer in the garden. Not sure if she was making little houses for herself or the chickens, but the chickens sure enjoy them!

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  4. Do your chickens scrounge underneath the hives for bee carcasses?

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    1. In the summer, they seem to spend a lot of time under and around the hives and are always very curious about what we're doing when we're at the hives. In winter, when all the deceased bees are laying about, they don't seem to go near the hives. It may be because they have access to our garden then which they seem to prefer or maybe they just don't like frozen food:-).

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