Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hive Check: Week 9

Bees are pretty.

Prepping the smoker.

Getting a couple of puffs into the entrance of Hive #2.

I'm storing Hive #2's second deep on top of the feeder, so it'll be ready when its time to put it on and so I don't have to carry it up and down the roof access ladder (again.)

Joined by a student film crew from the intensive summer program at Parsons, I headed up to my Fort Greene apiary to check whether the influx of pollen from my Week 8 inspection improved the survival rate of the brood in Hive #2.

Cruddy lookin' brood in Hive #2.  Big surprise.  Please excuse the hat.  I had a sunburn.
I am very white.

Oh wait, what's this!?

Solid, baby.

Whistling with appreciation.

This solid as heck brood pattern suggests that the pollen did the trick. These pupae were newly capped, and since worker brood spends 6 days as uncapped larvae a week ago when I added the pollen to the hive, these cells contained old eggs (2-3 days old) and very young larvae (4-6 days old)- just the right age to benefit from the resultant upswing in royal jelly production. After I was done inspecting the hive and making lots of noise to indicate how impressed I was with the level of improvement, I fed them more pollen and will continue to do so until they have a good stockpile stored away for the winter.

Checking for more good lookin' brood.

And I found it.  I imagine that the queen has been laying extra to make up for  all the brood that hasn't been making it.

The answer to all of life's little problems.  POLLEN.

The bees are taking the pollen and storing it under honey to preserve it.

I'm hoping that the increase in viable brood and the resulting boost in population will encourage this hive to ramp up their comb building activity and catch up with Hive #1. It is already July and they are still working on their first deep. As a rule of thumb, they'll need AT LEAST two full deeps of drawn comb and stores to make it through the winter. If they don't get caught up, I'll probably have to squash the queen and combine them with the much stronger Hive #1 in the fall.

The bees continue to build comb in the airspace of the feeder.

Quite a bit of it.

In an attempt to prevent them from reattaching it to the top bars of the frames, I  pressed the torn comb down.

Maybe they'll get the idea.
Probably not.

Hive #1 is well into the task of drawing the second deep, with workers actively drawing comb on about 5 of the frames. Some of the comb in the center is a little bit funky and oversized. It looks like they're trying to build drone cells, so in a week or two I might cut out some empty comb in the bottom, allowing them build a nice little discrete patch of drone brood.

More smoke = better.

Popping the top


Workin' up a storm in the top hive body.

There is a bit of funky comb, but it hasn't stopped the queen from laying.

One of the problems with using foundation is that it strongly discourages the bees from building any drone comb, which is decidedly unnatural. The overall population of a feral colony may be up to 10% drones. In a traditional colony built on foundation, the drone population may be as low as 1% or 2% of the total due to the enforced lack of drone comb. Some colonies will fill any available empty spaces (like under the feeder, or between poorly spaced frames) with drone comb to make up the difference, gumming up the hive in the process.

Looking for drone comb/brood.

This frame is being drawn out beautifully.

Getting our bokeh on.

Esmeralda continues to impress with large swathes of solid brood.

Checking out their stores of pollen.

Traditional literature will suggest that drones are a resource drain on the hive; they don't do any work other than mating, so they do nothing but use up energy that the hive might otherwise put towards making honey or raising more workers. However, more recent studies have shown that colonies allowed to raise as many drones as they want are just as productive as those colonies in which the drone population is artificially limited.

*wolf whistle*

I love my frame perch.  Never again will I accidentally kick a frame with my clumsy-ass foot.

Magritte in profile.

A new frame!  Where's that queen?

Heeeeeeere queeny, queeny, queeny!


Jim Fischer of the NYC Beekeeping Group has my favourite explaination:

Boys are good for morale!

Getting the band back together.


Back to work.

Photo Credit: Thanks to Adrian Bautista, Martha Glenn, and Brooke Tascona for taking/sharing pictures of this weeks inspection!

P.S. If any of my readers want to volunteer their skills as a photographer and come take pictures of my inspections, get in touch.

I like pretty pictures!

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