Honeychick Homestead

Homestead, Health, and Happiness

Robbing and Swarming!

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CRAZINESS! That’s a good word to describe my bee colonies this September!  It’s been very unpredictable, and they are keeping me on my toes!

As you know, California is experiencing the worst drought in over a century. It is dry, VERY DRY out here. It has been for the past three years. This is the hottest summer I remember since I moving here in 1996, we’ve had several over 100 degree days. The drought means nectar flow season is completely messed up.

Fruit trees bloomed 2-3 months early, and although we typically don’t get rain from May – October, we are normally able to water ornamental plants that provide nectar and pollen for honeybees and other pollinators. This year, many people stopped planting or watering their ornamental plants; that caused the flow of nectar to be less than usual and it also stopped earlier in the season, at least two months early. When nectar flow ceases it’s known as dearth, and although dearth happens every year, the drought conditions have made nectar extremely scarce this year and for the past few years.

Last year, my colonies didn’t experience any robbing. My husband made robbing screens to help protect their entrances from yellow jackets and bees from other colonies who might try to steal their honey.

This year is a completely different story!  I was going to do one last hive check of the season on September 20th, a 99 degree day! Not a fun time to be in a bee jacket and hood 🙂

When I approached Zinna colony I  noticed some weird behavior outside one of the boxes. I quickly realized that other bees were trying to get in and rob the sugar syrup in their feeder and honey inside the colony. Thank goodness I caught it early, otherwise the robbing bees may have overtaken this colony. Here’s pictures of what the early signs of robbing look like: View the pictures →

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Zinnia is Growing!

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Zinnia is one month old and I was excited to take a look at what’s been happening since I released the queen a few weeks ago. I wasn’t concerned with finding the queen but I did want to be sure she was laying eggs.

I left them with plenty of sugar syrup to eat while I am away. Here’ pictures of Zinna’s first hive check, I’m sure you’ll notice a big different from the pictures from Cosmo colony that I shared Friday. View the pictures →

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Cosmo is Thriving!

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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. View the pictures →

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