I am excited that Cosmo, the colony that was started from a nuc in June 2014, made it though the winter and is thriving this spring!
I haven’t looked at this colony for about three weeks. I’ve decided that I don’t want to disturb my colonies every week. Most things I’ve read recommend taking a look inside roughly every three weeks. I believe this is the recommendation for established colonies; new colonies typically require more frequent checks.
I try to observe my colonies from the outside at least one day each week, just to make sure nothing seems “off,” and that they are coming and going as expected, bringing in nectar and pollen, like they should be this time of year.
Before leaving for Maui, I wanted to check that they weren’t close to outgrowing their home and add a new box, if they needed mores space. If a colony gets to crowded it can sometimes encourage roughly half of the colony to leave or “swarm.”
Swarming is a reproductive process in which one colony splits to become two. The bees that leave take the old queen with them and the remaining bees are left with a soon to emerge virgin queen. When a colony is thriving, it can swarm more that one time in a season.
Swarming is different from absconding, when a colony absconds, the entire colony leaves with the queen. This is what happened to my Verbena colony in January 2015, after about 70% of that colony died. Absconding is not a reproductive process because all the bees leave, and the entire colony moves somewhere else.
The primary reasons for absconding are overheating, lack of food, and frequent disturbance. It can also be caused by bad odors, parasites, or disease. I think my Verbena colony left because they were starving and I didn’t realize it until it was too late! I hope those bees are living happily in the wild somewhere!
I observed a couple of swarms earlier in this spring and think at least one my have been from this colony. It doesn’t bother me that they may have swarmed, I view it as a sign they are a strong colony!
I had my trusty photographer (aka husband) take some pictures of my most recent hive check. Enjoy the pictures and details of what’s going on with Cosmo!
This is super cool photo of the worker bees coming and going from the entrance. If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see several bees coming in with full pollen baskets. It’s the yellow or orange stuff near their hind legs. Also, there is a drone bee flying in. It is the bigger bee almost in the middle of the photo. It looks much larger than the worker bees.
I switched to medium boxes last year and it’s been much easier for me to lift the boxes myself. The bottom one-two boxes are typically the “brood chamber” where the queen lays her eggs. I’m removing the top box and keeping the cover on so I don’t disturb them while I look at the other box.
As you can see, this 2nd box looks pretty full!
This is the 1st frame in the 2nd box. They have almost built out all of the wax comb and are beginning to store honey. Once each comb is full, they cap the honey. They are just starting to do this in the lower part of the frame.
This was the 2nd frame in the box, and it looks great! This side is about half full of capped honey and they are quickly filling up the rest. This is all wild honey, as I have not fed this colony since last fall.
This was the 3rd frame and it had an excellent brood pattern. A solid brood pattern is a sign of a healthy queen who is laying eggs. Underneath those yellow capped cells are new bees growing and getting ready to hatch. Along the edges you can see they have store honey. This frame looks great!
This is the bottom of the 3rd frame, if you look closely near the dark, open cells, you can see a couple new bees are getting ready to emerge from their cell. One is in the lower left side of the open cells, with about half of its cell eaten away. The other is in the third cell, of the third row of open cells. You can kind of see it’s eyes reflecting the light. I need to learn how to use Photoshop to draw arrows 🙂
This was a surprise! When I removed the 4th frame, underneath was what I believe is a new queen larvae. If you look in the middle of the photo you can see several bees surrounding a large, white larvae. When I removed this frame, I think I accidentally uncovered this queen cell. I hope I didn’t mess anything up! Colonies make new queen cells for several reasons, one is to swarm. This article explains more about queen cells.
This was the 5th frame, it also had a great brood pattern and lots of capped honey stored on the side. The bottom part of the frame has drone brood, which is bigger because drone bees are larger.
This was a frame from the top box and it is all honey the bees are storing. The top box was about 50% full. It’s recommended to add a new box when the top box gets 70% full. Since I was going to be on vacation for 2 1/2 weeks, I decided to add a new box. I hope I made the right decision!
Here’s another photo of the bees coming in for a landing!
I hope you enjoyed this post. Tomorrow, I’ll share about my new colony, Zinnia. Have any of you decided to try beekeeping?
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June 12, 2015 at 6:22 pm
Congratulations, those bees look great!
July 30, 2015 at 3:37 pm