Friday, May 3, 2013

You Take the Good, You Take the Bad: 2013-04-30

We have had really nice weather here in Michigan for about the last week.  It was a long time in coming but it is finally here.  So, of course, I was eager to get into the hive(s) and see what the girls are up to.  I had a few tasks left over from winter that I needed to attend to as well.  First off, removing and cleaning up my dead hive, Green Hive.  I began to disassemble Green Hive and quickly noted that the bees from White Hive were greedily robbing out all the remaining honey left over in Green Hive!  It didn't take them long to find an undefended honey source!  I pried each box apart and hauled them away from the bee yard.  I then applied a liberal amount of smoke to each box to try and drive the remaining bees out.  Finally, the last box was removed and only the bottom board remained with the deceased remnants of Green Hive gathered in a sad pile.

I scanned through the dead bees to see if I could find the queen and I did not see her.  I plan on going through all the frames from each box and decide if I will melt down the wax or keep them for later use.  Hopefully I will find what was left of the winter cluster somewhere in there.

The second task I needed to complete was the remove the extra sugar I had placed in White Hive as emergency winter feed.  I'm not sure they really ate much of it.  Anyway, I removed it and put some empty frames back in.  Now onto the inspection!

Typically the bees will start in the bottom boxes during the beginning of winter and gradually move up through the hive over the course of the winter, eating honey as they go.  So, come the spring, you expect to find them at the top of your hive and that is where they were.  I pulled the first frame and BAM, there was the queen!  I'd like to think my queen spotting abilities have improved but this time was way too easy.  She just visually jumped right out to me.  I could see that she was doing her job as the frame was fairly well covered in sealed brood, eggs and larvae.  The workers have also packed quite a lot of pollen along the top of this frame as well.

Brood Frame
I zoomed in a bit with the camera once I saw the larvae because I usually cannot spot eggs unless I'm looking at a photo.  The eggs are about the size of a grain of rice, so I don't think my vision is that bad yet.  Can you see the larvae of various ages tucked in their cells?  They look like little 'C' shaped grubs.

Here is a slightly closer look with a lot of pollen packed in near the off to the lower right in the photo.  Pollen is very important in raising new bees so they keep it stored close!
Larvae with pollen
As I continued my inspection, I became concerned when I saw brown spots along the top and sides of some of the frames.  These brown spots are also referred to as bee poo  =)  Normally bees are very sanitary and never "go" inside the hive.  If they go inside the hive it can be the sign of a disease called "Nosema".  It is a spore that infects the gut of a bee and causes intestinal problems.  I've also read that it could be simply "bee dysentery" and could easily clear up on its own.  I will have to closely monitor this in the future.  I may decide to swap out some of these frames once all the brood has hatched out of them.

Nosema or bee dysentery?
 During an inspection you check for a few things:  Queen?  Check!  Eggs?  Check!  Open and Closed Brood?  Check!  Pollen?  Check!  Honey?  Check!  Things are looking pretty good.  The last thing I'm looking for are drones.  Spring time is also swarm time and usually the first drones are emerging at the same time.  I'm also planning on splitting this hive and you need drones in the air to mate with a new queen.  I did not spot any drones nor did I see any drone brood, so it looks like they might be a few weeks away yet.  I saw the first dandelion in the yard so I think a nectar flow is coming soon!

All in all I guess you take the good (they survived the winter) and you take the bad (maybe have Nosema), you take 'em both and there you have the facts of life.  Sorry.  Really bad but I couldn't resist!

Until next time, thanks for reading.