Thursday, September 8, 2011

Hive Check: Weeks 14 & 16

As the summer winds down and fall rolls around, the rhythm of life within the hive changes. The bees are highly attuned to the shortening of the days, and sensing them, start to search faster and further for new sources of nectar and pollen to sustain them through the winter. Soon the queen will slow down her laying and the colony will allow its population to dwindle from its summer peak to a more manageable number. Even the physiology of the new bees being born will change. Winter bees (also known as fat bees) have more and larger internal 'fat bodies'. These 'fat bodies' serve, in a manner, as the liver of the bees; helping to sequester the waste products that build up over the long periods of winter confinement, as well as storing large amounts of the energy needed to maintain the warmth required to sustain a winter cluster. Combined with the fact that these bees will spend only a small time out of the hive foraging (if they do at all), their potential lifespan is hugely increased over the 6 week average of a summer bee, often up to 4-6 months for a winter bee born in the late fall.

Accordingly, the tempo and frequency of my hive inspections has changed as well. As the bees and I both focus on their winter survival, there is a desire to interrupt the workings of the hive less frequently and for less intrusive checks. I've been inspecting these hives once every two weeks and keeping each check down to a couple minutes.

Got honey? Got brood? Eggs?



Checking for eggs and young larvae.

Knotweed nectar.  Om nom nom.

It helps that there seems to be a strong honey flow at the moment. Both hives are filling their upper deeps with tasty looking amber honey, probably from Japanese Knotweed, a non-native and quite intrusive plant that seems to be ubiquitous in Brooklyn. The bees LOVE it and there is a huge amount of flight activity.

Hive 1 has completely drawn out both deeps and I haven't fed them in several weeks. They've been making the best of it, however, and over the last several weeks have filled every cell not occupied by brood with winter stores. Most of it isn't capped yet, but that'll change soon enough. The high humidity and all the rain isn't helping matters.

Esmeralda goes gangbusters.  Healthy lookin' small cell bees.

A still of that patch of emerging brood.  I almost never see this large of a group.
Lookit all them babbys.

Hive 2 is still behind, with 3 and a half frames left to draw. While they are taking in plenty of natural nectar and filling the comb that they have drawn out, their reluctance to draw out to the sides is frustrating. Still, their brood pattern is continues to be much improved after supplementing them with fresh pollen and there are plenty of healthy new bees emerging. There are still very small numbers of the 'bald brood' that Emily and I have been spotting. As it only seems to be occurring in very small patches, I'm not going to stress about it for now but I'll keep an eye out for any worsening of the situation.

Queen Lazing is less prolific.  Obviously not a Catholic.

Who you gonna call?


During my next inspection, I'll put them back on feed to attempt to force them to draw it out. A large volume of very dilute sugar syrup = a pressing need for space and the energy required to create it. I'll also shuffle the outer undrawn frames in between fully drawn ones. They probably won't like it, but they can suck it up. If they don't, Queen Lazing is getting skooshed and I'll combine the two to make a single strong hive.

Better get on it, girls.

Nice and crowded in there.  Note the cappings being put over the cells visible at the top.

P.S. 100th post! Christmas miracle!

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