Thursday, April 10, 2014

Queen or Bust?

The other day when I put top feeders on the hives and took the winter insulation off, I checked very briefly for eggs in both hives and didn't find any. This worried me, because I remembered not seeing queen activity in fall either, so I wondered if the queens had made it through winter. 
Winter bees live a few months, much longer than summer bees, but even they will eventually expire and the only way to replenish the population is with a queen who is a diligent egg layer. So finding evidence of queens today was a matter of survival and if I didn't see eggs today, I would have had to buy commercial queens ASAP. So the babee and I ventured into the first hive inspection of the year:

Assistant beekeeper suiting up

 The inside of a well kept top feeder. There is a dowel in the feeding well that keeps the bees from drowning. There should not be a lot of dead bees in the syrup. (The one time I had massive amounts of dead bees in the feed was an indication of robbing.)

The population level at first sight was not exactly awe inspiring.  Let's hope that most bees were busy finding pollen...

Oh sweetest sight: White slimy wormely bee larvae! Babees! "So cute!" says the assistant beekeeper. Gotta love that kid for loving something so homely.

Flat capped brood! What that means is that the queen is mated and producing worker bees for offspring. Based on the date of my last quick check and the fact that these bees seemed to already be hatching, I must have done a crummy job of inspecting. There were several frames of this classic pattern: A center of capped brood, surrounded by younger brood, surrounded by eggs, and then on the outside of the frame, some honeycomb. To this beekeeper, this is the perfect rainbow. 

I was not able to see queens in either hive, but I know the queens aren't marked, and they may not have been on the frames I pulled, or even in the lower boxes, which I didn't inspect. (In a few weeks, I will reverse top and bottom boxes as the brood nest expands.) For now, I will be content knowing that the populations of my hives are growing and all is well.

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