Pollen

I love watching the bees as they come and go from their hives, especially during the first pollen collection of the season. Recently when we had a nice, warm day I went over to the host hive to see if the bees were out flying. The hive was in the sun and there were a lot of bees out flying. As I got closer, I saw that there were many bees coming in with their pollen baskets full! Some of the bees looked like they were so excited when they were collecting the pollen that they rolled in it. They were completely covered with pollen.
The skunk cabbage was in full bloom and the bees were enjoying every bit of it. The dandelions have also started to bloom, so there is a little variety for them. I was so happy to see so many bees out flying and so much pollen being brought in to the hive.
The bees bring pollen in to the hive to feed their brood, so it is a good sign to see them bringing the pollen in. I am hopeful that there is a healthy queen and healthy colony. The colony is growing and looking good at this point. The weather is fluctuating a bit, but hopefully it will not affect them too much.
It is still to cold to open the living area of the colony. I do not want to break the propolis seal yet. I will wait until after I install the two new colonies before I inspect this hive. I will continue to check on them by watching them fly and looking in the window. They have not touched the jar of honey that I put into the feeder. I will take it out when I inspect them. By then, they should be collecting enough pollen and nectar to feed everyone.
I am wondering if I am going to need to split this colony this year. I don’t want to take drastic measures to prevent swarming, but I would love to keep this queen. I do not agree with clipping a queen’s wings or with cutting off queen cells to try to prevent swarming. Bees swarm as a natural reproductive process and I don’t want to interfere any more than I have to.
I could let them swarm, but this queen made it through a Massachusetts winter. Even though it was a mild winter, it was still winter. I also don’t want any of the neighbors in the area to be bothered by a swarm of bees. So many people do not understand swarming and they get very upset. It would be highly possible that these bees would swarm into the conservation land that is not far from their hive. In that case, they wouldn’t bother anyone.
So far I have not decided what I should do. I will need to decide quickly in order to make sure that I have the supplies that I need. I will need to get a top bar nuc and another hive. I also need to do some more research on splitting. The current issue of Bee Culture magazine (http://store.beeculture.com/beekeeping-your-first-three-years-summer-single-copy/) has an article on second year top bar beekeeping. I found this link in a tweet from Christy Hemenway of Gold Star Honeybees. I have not ready the article yet, but I plan to soon.
With the nice weather that we have had, there have been bees helping themselves to the leftovers in the Langstroth hive. I have asked Best Bees to come and pick up the hive since I will not be using Langstroth hives. My goal is to focus on horizontal top bar beekeeping. In the meantime, the Langstroth hive is sitting on the patio open for visitors. When the days are really nice it looks like we might have a colony of bees living in the hive. They are eating well while there are here. Best Bees will be picking up the hive soon, but while it’s here I am happy to let the bees get their fill of honey.

Crocus!
Crocus!
Hive and Honey
Hive and Honey
Bees Flying
Bees Flying
Pollen!
Pollen!
Helping herself
Helping herself
Unguarded Lang
Unguarded Lang

Barricade

Last winter in Massachusetts was very snowy. The final total of snow in my area was about 108 inches! We also had quite a bit of wind. One of the things that Christy Hemenway talked about in her class was wind and how it can be very difficult for the bees to stay warm when they are constantly getting hit by the wind. My host hive is very exposed to the elements and I needed to get some kind of barricade in place for them.
The winter has been very mild here this year. I don’t even know if we have gotten 6 inches of snow. This mild weather has led to some procrastination on my part and I did not get the hay bales and set them up around the hive as early as I wanted to. With being so late, I missed out on getting hay from the farm that I usually do. Luckily, Rachel was able to get some hay from a farmer that she knows. She was able to get 6 bales from him.
On February 3rd I went over to set up the hay bales around the hive. It had been 2 days since I had discovered that the hives in my yard had died. I really wanted to do what I can to help this colony survive. I set up the bales to protect the north facing side and the west facing side of the hive. The entrance faces east and there is conservation land down the hill, so I didn’t feel that I needed to put bales there.
I am so glad that I got the bales up when I did. The wind has picked up quite a bit around here lately. We have had a lot of really windy nights and some very windy days. Just the other night I was awake for quite a while listening to the wind and worrying about the bees. I was thinking about going over to the hive and strapping it, but I decided against it. If I were to strap the hive and the wind blew it over, I worried that the entire hive would be thrown over. I was thinking that if the hive wasn’t strapped down, then the wind might only take the lid off.
I visited the hive on February 20th. It was another nice, warm day here. I wanted to make sure the bees were out flying. There were so many of them outside of the hive! I was so happy to see that. They were cleaning dead bees out of the hive and taking cleansing flights. I also noticed that they were in the hay bales. I think that they were getting water from the bales, since the bales were wet. It seems that the hay bales serve a second purpose for these bees.
I am concerned about this colonies food stores. They went into the winter with probably close to 70 pounds of honey, but with all of the warm weather I am sure they have eaten up a lot of their stores. I did put in a two pound block of hard candy, but I really wanted them to have honey. Since I was able to collect a decent amount of honey from the Langstroth hive, I decided to use some of that honey to feed them.
On February 28th, it was a nice day and I felt that it was a good day to put the honey into the feeder area. I had no plans on opening the brood nest, I did not want to break their propolis seal or let the cool air in. When I got to the hive, I spent some time watching the bees flying out and around. They were busy and there was a good amount of bees out. I opened the window to see if I could see them. Wow, they have built up the colony some already. I was surprised to see so many bees on the combs, but I was also relieved. It means that the queen is laying and the brood is maturing.
After checking in on them, I opened the feeder area. They had eaten some of the candy block, but not very much. I put about 2 cups of honey into the feeder and put it in the hive. My feeder has space for two jars, but I only put one. I took the candy and put it on the feeder where there wasn’t a jar. This way they have both types of food and hopefully hunger is not an issue.
It is the beginning of March now and it looks like next week were are going to have some very nice days. One day it may even get up to 70 degrees! I will be checking on the bees frequently to make sure they are out flying and that they have enough food. I have noticed some flowers starting to bloom. In my yard I have crocus and pansies blooming right now. If the blooming continues then the bees should be able to start collecting pollen soon. Rachel had said that the skunk cabbage looks like it is almost ready to bloom. From what I have heard, honey bees love skunk cabbage.
Barricade
Barricade
Warm day
Warm day
Honey from the Lang
Honey from the Lang
Bees in the hay
Bees in the hay
Lots of bees
Lots of bees
Honey and candy
Honey and candy
A look in the window
A look in the window