Weather in the Pacific Northwest has been very mild lately, just this weekend we had temps in the low 60s and our bees were having some field days. With that much activity, but no local food sources for the bees I thought it would be a good to check on their food reserves.
We always add an Imirie Shim on top of the inner cover and then we fill the extra void with sugar. We had added the reserve food back in November and when we lifted the covers today we noticed that almost the entire sugar reserves were gone. We used up a 25 lbs back of sugar to add more sugar reserves to our hives.
It was good to see that all hives showed activity. We will check back with them in about 4 weeks.
Almost out of sugar reserves:
The additional sugar will not only prevent the bees from starvation, it will also help with moisture management in the hive.
April has started out cold and rainy, but last Friday the sun came out and it was a perfect day for another hive inspection.
With the cold temperatures and rain in the Pacific Northwest, it is critical to keep checking the food supplies. I have not added sugar syrup to the colonies yet, but I keep dry sugar on the inner cover to help them along during this rainy spring.
During the inspection I noticed that one colony is struggeling, the queen was mated in 2017, but she seems off. She is not laying many eggs and I found several cells with two eggs. I have new queens on order and I am just hoping that this colony will make it till the new queens arrive. The benefit of having multiple hives is that you get to help the hive along. I took a frame of capped brood from one of the bigger hives and added it to this week one. I am hoping that this boost of young bees will get them over the next two weeks.
I checked all strong hives for space to avoid early spring swarming, fortunately they all had plenty of empty frames left and I only removed a couple of queen cups. Looks like I will not have to worry about swarming until late April or early May, but by then the new queens will have arrived and I will split all the bigger colonies.
Dandelions are blooming in the ara and the bees are coming back with plenty of yellow pollen.
About a week ago I came across this blog post from Beekeeping365! It is very well written and provides a lot of important information.
I have a very similar story to tell:
I made it through the winter with 100% of my seven hives. Two weeks ago, during my first frame by frame inspection, I saw the queens, eggs, and activity in each hive. I thought all was looking good, even though one colony was quite a bit smaller than the other six. Instead of treating this colony with more care, I ended up running through the same routine: I cleaned out any dead bees which were still in the hive, cleaned the bottom board, rotated the boxes to get the bees back into the bottom brood chamber and made sure they all had enough dry sugar reserves.
This weekend when I checked on the food reserves, I noticed that the weak colony had no activity and after removing the second brood chamber I found the small cluster of dead bees. Why did they die? I am not sure, but I would suggest that I made some mistakes without knowing it. Last year, this colony seemed super nervous and loud every time I opened the box. I thought about re-queening, but with many bees in all boxes and good brood patterns I decided to hang on. This might have been mistake number one, the queen was going through her second season and a later summer replacement might have sent a stronger colony into the winter. Mistake number two was probably the box rotation AND not removing the second deep brood box. Temperatures in the Pacific Northwest are still dropping into the low 40s or high 30s at night. With the bees and brood in the bottom box, the small cluster might not have been able to stay warm enough at night.
I did treat for mites twice last year and with the last treatment in September the might count was good going into winter.
At the end of the day, I agree with Beekeeping365 – maybe it was lazyness combined with inexperience. Going forward I will replace my queens in the late summer after their second season and I will also downsize the hives if there are not enough bees to keep a two story building warm!
Why did my bees die? This is a question often asked and sometimes difficult to answer. The beekeeper looking at a dead colony is left with clues that can sometimes indicate the cause of death. More often though the beekeeper looks at the “crime scene” and makes an incorrect assumption. We’ve all heard it, “Wax […]
Looks like spring is slowly arriving in the Pacific Northwest. Last weekend the temperatures made it into the 60s and I was finally able to check on my seven colonies, which all made it through the winter. Looks like my mite, food and moisture management has worked another year!
Even though I had no complete losses, it is normal to find many dead bees inside the hive once you open the boxes for the first time after winter. Especially the bottom boards are filled with dirt and lots of dead bees. During the winter I did clean out the entrance and bottom board through the front entrance, but you can’t get it completely cleaned out.
So if you have never opened a hive after winter, get ready for a big mess. I can tell you, the bees seemed very happy after I went through all the boxes, removed all dead bees and other junk which had accumulated during the past few months.
Only one of the seven hives had a very small cluster. All others are covering at least eight frames. Every colony has a laying queen, I spotted one to two frames with eggs and I also spotted the queen in almost every hive. With the current temperature in the 50s the hives should keep building up for spring.
Most of the hives have several frames of honey left, however, I have kept the dry sugar on the hive to supplement their resources for a few more weeks.
My Nuc boxes are ready, queens are on order and if all goes well, I will do my splits during the first or second weekend in April.
Send me an email if you are local and interested in one of the Nucs.
Today was the first day in the Pacific Northwest with temperatures close to 60 degree Fahrenheit. It was a good day to cut back some of the blackberry bushes to get the bee yard ready for the 2018 season. Got to make some room for more colonies. All seven hives have made it through the winter and they were already bringing in pollen today. Looks like I will have to split at least three of the colonies in April to avoid swarming.
The weather forecast for tomorrow looks good as well. We might get into the 60s!
It will be a perfect day for my first full inspection of the hives. Stay tuned for updates.
Now that we are about half way through the off season it is a good time to use the long holiday weekend to check on your bees’ food supply.
My hives are still heavy with honey, but just to be safe, I added some emergency sugar on the inner cover. Not only will this provide additional resources, it will also help with moisture management and keep your bees dry.