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Whoa doggie!

Well, my enthusiasm got the best of me again! I feel like this happens every year!

The good news is that I checked 19 hives and only had one problem hive (see end of post for thoughts on this hive.) The ‘other news’ (I do not consider it BAD, but simply informational) is that I found very few walking drones and nowhere near the amount of capped drone brood that I expected. This was the first bit of news that caused me to hold off creating any Nucs yesterday. These are Nucs that will go (for the most part) to new beekeepers. The last thing I want a new beekeeper to be strapped with is a queen that is not well mated. Based on my drone findings, I should only start Nucs next weekend and really pour it on in 2 weeks.

The second observation was ‘hive build-up’. Although I did find several hives with brood on 6 or more frames, the capped brood was no more than 25% of the frames. In my opinion, I could easily create Nucs today with that kind of setup, but it would definitely set the parent hive back a lot. Basically, imagine the queen beginning to build up. It is more of an exponential process. She starts out with a few eggs one day, a few more the next day and so on. The main thing holding her back is the number of bees available to keep the brood warm during the cold nights (and days, as has been the case the last few weeks.) At some point, there are enough nurse bees to manage nearly all of the eggs that she can lay. I want to create my Nucs when we are very close to this point. So, when I remove a bunch of nurse bees for the child Nuc, the queen does not have to reduce her egg laying by too much (there are still enough nurse bees to sustain her build up.) In my opinion, my hives are 1 to 3 weeks (depending on the hive) from this point. Creating Nucs now would set the hives back by as much as a month in some cases. But, wait for some of that capped brood to hatch over the next couple of weeks and I will only be setting them back by a week or two.

It’s a good thing to set them back, as a swarm management technique, but I don’t want to set  them back so much that it makes it hard to create more Nucs in the near future or puts the hive at jeopardy. That’s my philosophy anyway and the final piece to the drivers for my decision to hold off creating Nucs for the time being.

As always, the Overwintered Nucs are on a totally different playing field. They all have a good amount of drones and have filled up the bottom Deep Nuc with brood (for the most part.) They are laying on 80% of each frame and the bees are rocking. None (that I checked today anyway) have started to lay in the upper Mediums to any degree. I want them to move up into the Mediums and allow me to split them, creating a few Medium Nucs. They may swarm – we’ll see. It’s ‘experiment mode’ this  year.

As to my one problem hive, it was a bit of an oddity (as always!) The hive had plenty of honey and pollen, but it appeared that the bee population was simply too small to support the brood. A lot of capped brood had dead pupae in it and I even saw some that had begun to break out of the capped cell but had apparently perished (probably on a cold night.) I could not find the marked queen, which pretty much means she is gone (I will probably try to find her again today). It was a queen from last year (yellow), so I do find it a bit odd. She actually had gotten a pretty good start within the last 3 weeks (a fair amount of capped brood) but had somehow perished during that time. There were also A LOT of small hive beetles.

The bottom line is that this hive cannot survive in the full setup it is in right now. I could combine them with a nearby, strong hive, but the SHB’s are a bit of a dissuasion here. I could also move them into a Nuc, which would be easier for them to manage, but I’d need to make sure the queen is still alive. More than likely, I will drop by the bee yard some evening when it has gotten cold, grab the whole hive and literally freeze it, bees and SHB’s all. I may then send a few bees to Virginia Tech to have a look. If I do reuse the hive, I will definitely track where those frames go in case I have a problem here. There was some odd, crystal like stuff in some of the cells that I am unable to identify (if I had used mountain camp on these gals, I’d say it was sugar, but I didn’t feed them.) We’ll see, but it is unlikely that I’ll spend much effort on them. They seem to be some genetics that I really didn’t need.

2 comments to Whoa doggie!

  • You are not alone. Yesterday, I had walking drones and very little brood in my one established hive and a lot of brood and no drones/drone comb in my overwintered August swarm. Neither hive looked up playing donor. I’m out near Farmville.

  • I think the ‘cold snap’ we had sort of put them in a slow idle. Up my way, it’s been ‘colder than average’ by about 10 degrees for the last several weeks (this past weekend being the exception.) My guess (I don’t know why I still guess, as I am frequently mistaken!) is that the current warm snap will ramp them up a bit. From what I can tell, this will be a good time for them over the next couple of weeks, temperature wise. I bet that the swarm season is much reduced from last year.

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