Tag / spring inspection

Beekeeping Bees Hive Maintainance

Spring in the Beehives: The Bees Have Emerged

Two days ago it was the first day of truly warmer weather.  We reached 55 degrees.  As I was heading out to my car this afternoon to run some errands, I noticed that my car was covered in bee poo, blobs of yellow dots and streaks adorned my car.  This was a good sign.  Knowing the bees were out and about, I decided to take a peek at the hives quickly before I left and I was shocked.

Hundreds of bees around the hives and Willow (back hive) has the beginnins of a bee beard outside the hive.

The buzzing was intense.  Loud.  There were hundreds of bees around the hives. The hive I call Willow had the beginnings of a bee beard on the outside of the lower deep.  Immediately, I had concerns about swarming.  Bearding can mean that the bees are feeling as if they have run out of space.  Knowing that Willow’s population was already through the roof from the last peek that I took, I called my mentor.  Luckily, he was in the area and he had extra equipment and supplies with him.

First we opened Willow.  My suspicions were correct.  Even this early in spring, the bees were feeling as if they had outgrown their space.  They immediately needed somewhere to go.  Over 80% of their candy board was consumed. We sprang into action.  We quickly did the spring maintenance   The hive temperament was good.  We didn’t even need the smoker.  We did not inspect this hive thoroughly to look for the queen.  With this many bees, we know that she is thriving somewhere inside the hive.  We added a third deep so that the bees would have extra space and not feel so cramped.  Not only will this help to prevent the swarm, but it can also help when it comes time to do a split. A split is when you make two hives from one. However, it is still too early to make the split in the season.  This will have to wait until May. Then I will have to make some big decisions on how I want to do the split.  I have a few important decisions that I will blog about soon.

The entrance after the cleaning and reversing the deep’s position.

Next we opened up Briar.  Only 15% or so of the candy board was consumed. The bees were strong in numbers but no where near that of Willow.  This hive we inspected.  There was still a good amount of stored honey, pollen and some fresh nectar was being brought into the hive.  A few bees were loaded down with assorted shades of yellow pollen.  We did not see the queen, but it did not mean she was not there.  We did not see any brood either, but she may not be laying yet.  It is still early in the season here on Cape Cod.  This hive is strong as well.  So it too will need to be split later this spring.

Dead bees and hive debris after the cleaning. One live worker bee (center) scavenges for anything valuable to the hive.

On both hives, we did a bit of spring maintenance.
Please keep in mind this is a bit early for where I live but these efforts were taken to prevent swarming:

  • reversed the order of the two bottom deeps to help prevent swarming
  • cleaned the IPM ( Integrated Pest Management) boards that I kept in all winter long to help insulate the hive
  • kept the candy boards in place.  Will start feeding sugar syrup to Willow in a couple of weeks. No need to feed Briar, as they have plenty winter stores (honey) left.
  • Cleaned the screened bottom boards
  • Scraped off excess propolis
  • Replaced older broken frames
  • Inspected both hives for the queen or signs of the queen
  • Added an extra deep to both hives that can be used later in May to make the splits.
So for now, all is well with both hives.  I am surprised that they have fared so well this winter in comparison to some of my fellow beekeepers.  My mentor tells me that my two hives are the strongest he has seen in two years after overwintering.  Wow!  He also thinks that I will be harvesting honey this summer.  I can’t wait.

It’s not pretty, but these borrowed deeps will help to make the splits in a few weeks.

Never trust used equipment. Be sure to always add new frames and foundation and torch the insides of the boxes-all the nooks and crannies- to prevent the transmission of diseases and pests.

Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest