In my defense, we’ve had an abundance of rainy weekends this winter which has prevented me from getting out to check the hives as often as I would like. This early spring has also thrown off my timing, and when I showed up to inspect the hives today, I really thought I would have a nice easy inspection.
Boy was I wrong.
Both hives were busting out at the seams which made them super aggressive during the inspection. I checked Knives’ hive first and the top super was still all honey. I had a heck of a time getting it off because the girls had built comb between the frames of the two supers and used them to raise brood. I ended up ripping up the comb to remove the super killing the poor brood in the process.
This was my first giant fail as a beekeeper. Poor Knives had to overcome so much last summer from the drought, a supersedure, and a pesticide incident, and now I don’t add an extra super early enough.
Instead of sulking, I need to repair the situation because Austin will be in full blown nectar flow in a few weeks if we don’t get a freak late freeze. I added the bee escape to take off a super full of honey and also added an extra box of empty frames. I’ll harvest the honey tomorrow and put the super back on for them to clean up the leftovers.
I then moved on to Marge’s hive, and it was a good thing I did her second. I honestly had a “I may get stung to death” moment after I got down a few supers. She also built comb between the frames for brood which made it extremely difficult to remove the frames and the supers. I was just covered in angry bees and got stung twice on the neck through my veil. Even though I couldn’t go all the way down, I feel that the bottom supers may be empty as they moved up the hive during the winter. I’m going to try and check tomorrow morning when the temperature is closer to 50 degrees. I’m hoping the colder temperature will prevent as many bees from taking to the air, but not be too cold to get chilled brood. Any advice on dealing with a hive gone completely bonkers would be much appreciated.
I’ll end this post with a macro shot of what a stinger looks like after it is removed from your neck.
I spent the past few days visiting my folks in Jupiter, FL which is just north of West Palm Beach. One of their neighbors are hosting some hives on their land for a Florida beekeeping during the “winter” months. This particular beekeeper mainly provides pollination services for the various citrus groves in the area as well as farms and orchards on both the coasts.
Right now, a small ground cover weed is in full bloom in the area which the bees are hitting hard. Looking at the blooms individually, they are very small and not an obvious source of pollen or nectar, but when you have 1 or 2 acres of the stuff, it is all of a sudden an excellent food source.
I stalked this one bee for a long time before I finally got a good shot to show all the pollen these tiny flowers are producing. This girl was loaded down with the stuff and wasn’t even taking the time to move all the pollen to her pollen sacs. She was literally covered head to toe with this white pollen.
Bees will take advantage of whatever is available and goes to show that what most people consider weeds are vital for the local pollinators during the lean months before the major spring and summer blooms.
It is not a very fun topic, but starvation is a major killer of managed bee hives each winter. Austin has experienced a very mild winter, which ironically, can put more of a strain on the hive’s resources than a cold one. We’ve had plenty of days where it is warm enough for the bees to go forage, but the energy expended finding food is no where near equal to what is available as most of the plants are dormant for the winter months. They would actually spend less energy clustered together in the hive if the temperatures were lower.
Luckily, most of the plants in Austin seem just as screwed up as well, and we are seeing a bloom cycle 3-4 weeks earlier than normal. The roses in my garden are about to go into full bloom when normally February 14th is the day in Central Texas where gardeners recommend pruning them.
This is why it is important to check your hives in the winter months on those mild days to ensure adequate foods stores still remain in the hive. If not, beekeepers usually recommend feeding granulated dry sugar as opposed to syrup during the winter as it is hard to keep the syrup over 50 F. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to feed in the winter, you will need to continue feeding until enough is blooming in the spring for the bees to become self-sufficient.