Flannel Jammies Farm

...praising God on our 1/5 acre of suburbia

Sunday, March 8, 2015

first hive check of the season...

It's been a long and cold winter.  Really cold.  Record-breaking cold for our area of Virginia that lasted and lasted, punctuated with days and days of snow and ice.  Since we started keeping bees, winter has become a time to worry about the bees and to be lonely for them.   Is it too cold?  We do provide extra insulation on the most bitter nights, but is it enough?  Do they have enough ventilation to prevent condensation?  We use screened bottom boards and screened inner covers, but is it enough?  Are their honey stores holding out?  We slipped some of their honey to them on the warmer of the cold days, but is it enough?  How many hives will we lose to this cold, lonely season?

This year we did lose some bees, but thankfully we have strong hives emerging, too.  The last couple of days here have been so warm and sunny.  Bees have been flying and drinking water and gathering pollen.  (And getting stuck in my hair...)  Today's temperatures were warm enough for us to do our first hive check of the season.

We chose a Langstroth hive for today's check, put on our suits, and lifted the lid.  There, happily buzzing and sharing and working, were so many beautiful bees!  We went through each hive box, looking for warning signs of disease and pests and queen cells.  I am delighted to report that this hive seems quite strong and healthy!  We did not spot the Queen, but we saw eggs and larvae in all stages, along with capped brood, colorful pollen, and honey stores.  We no longer mark our Queens following an unfortunate marking job... I just can't seem to get the hang of it.  We noted bees fanning and building and transferring nectar one-to-another through their proboscises (their strawlike "tongue").  We watched with renewed wonder, blessed to be back in the bee yard.  We scraped excess and erratically placed honeycomb and propolis (the sticky, resinous mixture the bees use to seal the hive), placed the frames back in the boxes, stacked the boxes back together, and gently closed the lid. 

These amazing creatures bless us so much!  They pollinate our plants, they provide honey and wax for our homestead, and they are fascinating to observe!
The one on the right seems to be saying, "Oh, no... my little sister is following me..."

Please forgive all the photos... 
new grandmas' photos are NOTHING 
compared to what a Bee Mama can snap and store!