On April 29th I went out to Old Frog Pond Farm to inspect the hives. The Willow hive looks great. The bees are very active and foraging. They are bringing in a good amount of pollen. The colony is growing nicely. They have built new comb and are working on filling the cavity of the hive that they are in. I added some more bars to give them extra room. These bees are so calm and nice to work with. They don’t seem to mind me in their hive at all.
Then I headed over to the Orchard hive to inspect it. After watching the bees at the entrance, I went to the back of the hive and opened up the observation window. To my surprise a colony of ants were nesting on the outside of the window!
There are some ferns growing right near the hive, so I picked some. I used the ferns to brush the ants off of the window. I was hoping that brushing them off would solve the issue. Then I continued the inspection. This colony seems to be even a little stronger than the Willow colony. They are growing quickly and needed some more space. I added some more bars for them.
In both hives I saw everything that I needed to see. There were eggs, uncapped brood, capped brood, pollen, nectar, and capped honey in each hive. I was also able to see each of the queens. They are somewhat easy to spot right now since the colonies are not at full strength yet. I am sure that as the season progress it will be more and more difficult to find the queens. As long as I see eggs, larvae, and capped brood I know that the queen has been in the hive within the last three days. Most likely she is still in the hive.
On May 6th I went back to check on the Orchard hive and see if there were more ants. Much to my dismay, the ants were back and nesting on the window again! I brushed them off of the window again and made sure to get all of them off. Once they were gone, I put peppermint essential oil on the observation window door to try to deter them from coming back. I put quite a bit on there, luckily the bees don’t mind peppermint.
While I was there I checked in on the bees. They are doing well and building new comb. Everything looks really good inside the hive. So far the ants have not gone into the hive. I also opened up the Willow hive to see how things were going for them. Each of the colonies look very good and doing very well.
In the spring it is common for there to be more drone brood than during the rest of the season. I have heard some beekeepers mention concern about it and they try to eliminate most of the drone brood. The queen creates the drones in order to spread her genetics and if we continue to interfere by getting rid of most of the drones than we risk loosing out on the diversity of genetics that we have left.
I know that I am still a new beekeeper, but I also know that there are a lot of things working against the honeybees. I don’t want to work against them, I want to work with them. Last year both of the colonies that I had followed the same pattern. They had a larger amount of drone brood in the spring and then there was a greater focus on worker brood as the season went on.
One of the arguments about eliminating the drone brood is that the varroa mites prefer the drones. One of the reasons that I went with the top bar hives is that the bees get to build the comb the way that they want to. My hive that did not survive the winter was not over run with mites, their mite count was actually very low. I have continued to do visual mite checks with my Host hive and they seem to be okay so far too. I will continue to watch them.
On Mother’s Day I thought I would go check in on my other children again. I walked over to the Willow hive first to see what was going on with them. On my walk to the hive I got to see goslings and their parents. It was a beautiful day to be out at the farm. The Willow hive looked good and I spent some time taking pictures of the scenery around me.
When I was done there, I walked over to the Orchard hive to check on the ants. The bees looked happy and didn’t seemed bothered at all. I opened the observation window and there were no ants! I put some more peppermint essential oil on the door in the hopes of keeping them away. I hope that they are gone for good, but time will tell.