Sunday, March 4, 2012


I can't lie, I was pretty excited to see the honey bees flying. Running towards the house yelling "The bees are flying, the bees are flying"! I probably looked ridiculous but oh well, it was exciting dang it!

The bees are flying, the bees are flying!

This weekend, we hit fifty degrees for the first time this spring, and just like I hoped they would, the bees became airborne.This was exciting on a couple of levels: one because I haven't seen the bees fly in months, but also just knowing that they are alive and I didn't let them die this winter was very satisfying. 

Leaving the hive, after months in the cluster must be the most amazing thing. A bee can store 1/4 of it's body weight in waste while confined to the hive, so "cleansing" is priority number one when they do fly. Note to self: next time don't stand in front of the hive when the bees fly for the first time in the spring!

Whitney's flock was also out enjoying the warm weather. With the ground thawing, the chickens finally get to scratch and hunt again. Finding an earthworms or other tasty tid-bits sends them into fits of excited clucking.   

I decided to lift the lids off the hives to see what the bees had done with the sugar I fed them back in December. Blog Post: mid december part 2: emergency feeding

This (above) is the stronger colony, the one that was vacuumed out of the house. They didn't make use of the sugar all that much, telling me they must have had more honey in there than I thought, but I'm still glad to have fed them.

This is the smaller colony, the swarm we collected off a friend's fence post. You can see they used the sugar a lot more, telling me I was right to be worried about them. I bet without the sugar they would have starved. You can also see evidence of another hard lesson learned. The dark blotches on the frames indicates the bees were "cleansing" in the hive. This is not a good thing, and may be a sign of dysentery. With the entrance reducer on the smallest hole, the bees got hive bound due to heavy winter losses and weren't able to get out when they needed to. Next time I need to watch that better because dysentery and it's assoceate Nosema (bacterial infection) are good ways to loose a colony. This is more common when you do a lot of feeding like I did, so I'll have to watch and see if this colony contines to show signs of stress. We're not out of the woods yet.  

Bees eating sugar

I'll leave the sugar there, and they'll keep working on it for a while yet. The dandelions will be our first bloom, and I think that's a ways out yet. The next thing on my list is to decide if I'm going to re-queen (a new queen would dramatically increase our chances of having honey to harvest) and to feed pollen (the bees need the protein from pollen to get them ready for the busy season) but more on that later. 
For now, I'm just excited spring is here. The birds are singing, the bees are flying, the smell of mud and skunk on the breeze. It's exciting dang it, time to go outside!