Spotted the first dandelion today which means things are gonna start getting pretty exciting with my bees! It has cooled off a bit after a week of warm Spring weather and things have been a little slow to bloom, but as soon as the dandelions start popping up you can pretty much guarantee your bees are going to be busy drawing out comb! Honey bees are more prone to draw comb this time of year over any other time, and I want them to be drawing out the honey super frames I recently gave them…which reminds me – I need to pop in my bottom board to help warm up the hive for them! The extra warmth will help with the wax-building as well.
What I’ve done so far for my survivor hive includes removing the overwintering parts (quilt box, quilt, and moldy inner cover), adding a honey super, feeding a 1:1 sugar water (they seem to be inhaling about one quart-sized mason jar per day on the 55+ degree days), and keeping the bird bath filled with water and dried leaves for the bees to perch on which they have been regularly visiting – YAY!
I really tried to wait for the dandelions to pull all my wintering gear off, but with the wonderful warm days and how busy my bees were I just couldn’t stand waiting and leaving those moldy bits on there any longer.
Here are a couple photos of what my hive looked like back on March 18th and the mold on the inner cover:
Luckily the mold was only on the top and bottom of the inner cover as well as the quilt blanket, so it was easy in that I just removed them from the hive. I now know that I should have had a taller shim/spacer (that dark blue piece there) with a larger hole to overwinter the bees which would have increased the airflow in my hive, and I also should have left the inner cover out over the winter since, well, heat rises and would be pulled through my chimney (“Quilt Box”) through my inner cover. In other words, I want the air to flow out the spacer and not through the quilt box, I want the heat to remain down lower rather than flowing out through the Quilt Box, and I want the bees to stay warm and be able to get to the sugar I overwintered them with, which I didn’t really understand the concept until I saw the resulting mold and talking over the reasons for it with one of my instructors, Clay Ottoni. Eh, but, live and learn, that’s what beekeeping is all about, right?…and my bees still prevailed despite that little mistake so all is fine.
Meghan Milbrath, one of my instructors from last year’s beginner’s class (did I mention that the Advanced Class got canceled for this year? not enough students signed up, so I’ll try again next year!), will be coming out to my house in early May to help me split my hive (potentially) and discuss raising queens so that when I get my new package bees I can re-queen with my survivor genetics. I was getting worried the past two weeks that my bees might be thinking of swarming soon because they just seemed to be boiling over out of the hive, and so last weekend I just lifted up my top brood box to check for swarm cells (none were visible yet – awesome), and I also switched my entrance reducer to the wider setting and added a honey super on top. The day after I added the honey super I lifted the top and inner cover to spy inside the honey super, and behold – plenty of nurse bees were already inhabiting the space I gave – glad I did that when I did!
I still plan to reverse my brood boxes soon, but since it chilled off a bit I need to wait for a warm, dry day again where the lowest temperature is a minimum of 57 degrees. Tomorrow is supposed to be very nice, so reversing boxes might be in my plans for the day. It’ll be a great time to check for swarm cells again too. And, I’d love to find the queen and see if she’s the same one I started out with, and check for eggs and all that good stuff as well. Oh beekeeping, how I love you!