Two days ago it was the first day of truly warmer weather. We reached 55 degrees. As I headed 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 emerged and were about, I decided to take a peek at the hives quickly before I left. I was shocked.
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 to let him know that the bees emerged. 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 and quickly did the spring maintenance The hive temperament was good. We didn’t even need the smoker. Although, 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.
Next we opened up Briar. Only 15% or so of the candy board remains. The bees are strong in numbers but no where near that of Willow. This hive we inspected. There is a good amount of stored honey and pollen. Fresh nectar is being brought into the hive. A few bees are coming in 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.
On both hives, we did a bit of spring maintenance.
Please keep in mind this is a bit early for where I live but we are doing this 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
- Add an extra deep to both hives to use later in May to make the splits.
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