Saturday was a beautiful day to get into the hives. After reading a post from a Richmond beekeeper that showed swarm prep underway (!!!) I needed to get into that strong hive pronto! It’s handy when he posts regularly because we’re a few weeks behind him since he’s about 2 hours south of my area. When he posted about walking drones, I was able to check my hives 2 weeks later and I found the same thing in Melissa.
I’ve been into the hives a few times and the inspections have been fairly brief as the weather has not been perfect for hive inspections, but doable. Demeter, the purple hive, went into winter with a low population and only uncapped stores. I kept bee candy on them the entire winter to make sure they always had food. When I was able to do a more in-depth check on them, I found all of their stores gone in the frames and no brood. I have a feeling they were rearing some because otherwise there would have been NO bees. They likely ate through everything rearing the little brood they did and then probably stopped or kept the numbers really low.
In early March, I had given them a partial frame of brood from Melissa and partially filled honey frames I was storing in the house over winter. The honey seems to have done the trick because the next time I went in, there were two small areas of brood (literally 2-3″ across along the side of a frame). The brood I had given them unfortunately froze during a cold-snap because the population was too low to spare any bees for extra brood protection. As you can see below:
Saturday, I found a frame of mostly capped brood in Melissa and gave it to Demeter with the adhering nurse bees. Thankfully, stranger nurse bees and brood are easily accepted by hives without fighting so this will be my swarm prevention strategy as the spring progresses. I was all ready to use my handy-dandy double screen bottom board as instructed by our bee inspector, Bill Troup, during our short-course (which is going on right now), but no swarm prep was noted, it looks like the hive is just ramping up brood production now. It’s a delicate balance though this brood removal: you don’t want to remove all of their replacement bees or you’ll kill the hive.
If brood will be available, I’ll remove a capped frame every week until the purple hive has built up at least to a full deep. Then I plan to feed it.
It looks like I’ll still only be able to harvest from one hive this year. I plan to feed, feed, feed after harvest because last summer they ate through EVERYTHING they had! Late summer is tough around here, even if you leave lots of honey for them, they’ll need to eat it just to stay alive. And then you’ll need to feed them anyway. I wish we had a better late nectar flow.