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And Very Productive Day

According to the calendar last Wednesday was still winter, but the weather was more like summer.   The temperature had gone up above 80° F.   I had a day off from work and because it was so nice outside I spent most of my day in the garden.  I achieved my main priority: removing the winter insulation and inspecting our beehives.

I finished the first two large hives but debated on opening the smallest one. I wasn’t sure if the temperature will drop down below freezing again or not.   My concern was that the little hive, which looks more like a nuc than a full hive, will not have enough bees to keep themselves warm if the temperature drops.   But after observing them for a while, watching them fan the air into the hive to cool it, I removed their insulation as well.

I was happy to see that they all survived and still had plenty of stored honey, especially the main hive, #1.

Plenty of bees in this hive. My concern now is that they will most likely swarm in late spring

Plenty of bees in this hive. My concern now is that they will most likely swarm in late spring

Hive #1 still had a super full of honey. It's still early March and not much is blooming yet, so I left it for them.

Hive #1 still had a super full of honey. It’s still early March and not much is blooming yet, so I left it for them.

New nectar and pollen

New nectar and pollen

They had been bringing in pollen, nectar and sugar syrup that I put out for them throughout the day.  There was a pollen rush at certain point.  Nothing much is blooming at this time except the Silver Maples (Acer saccharum) in the yard helping to supply them with plenty of pollen and nectar.  I’ll put sugar syrup out for them until the Dandelions bloom.

Silver maple flowers provide plenty of pollen and nectar in very early spring

Silver maple flowers provide plenty of pollen and nectar in very early spring

Hive #2 also has a lot of food remaining in storage but a lot of combs are attached so I only removed a pair of them and let the rest stay attached.  I will replace them after the bees have drawn all the honey from them.  This hive exhibited another strange behavior, they chewed off wax at the bottom of each frame in the bottom super.  Since the bottom super is usually empty at the end of winter, I replaced them with new frames instead of switching the supers.

Wax was chewed off at the bottom. I don't know if they used it to connect the combs in the top super

Wax was chewed off at the bottom. I don’t know if they used it to connect the combs in the top super

The #3 hive that has the fewest bees, pulled through the winter well.  This is the hive that had closed off the top entrance and left just a pin hole for the warm air to come out.  The survivors are grouping in the middle of the hive straight up in both supers.  I expect in order to keep warm with a small number of bees, staying in the middle of the hive helps.  They are busy taking in sugar syrup and pollen now.  Hopefully, the queen will do her duty and produce a bigger brood this coming season (otherwise she’ll be dethroned).

Hive#3, the smallest, the bees only gather in the middle four frames of both supers

Hive#3, the smallest, the bees only gather in the middle four frames of both supers

In one perfect day I managed to do all the beekeeping spring chores:

  • Remove winter insulation, both outside and inside
  • Inspection: looking for disease, mites, and sign of wax moths
  • Switch supers, move top to bottom and bottom to top
  • Change frames, if necessary
  • Feed the bees, with 1:1 sugar/water, to give them a head start when not much is blooming yet

I’m happy to find that they look healthy, disease free, so little mites and no wax moths.  However they glued everything tightly with propolis and I had a hard time inspecting.  There will be a lot of scraping when I have to change supers.  But clean bees are happy and healthy bees.