Hive Inspection – 20170907

Overview

The bees in hives 1 and 2 were very agitated today. Hive 3 was much calmer. Why? All three colonies are still bringing in stores of nectar and pollen. Brood populations are noticeably lower, but not unacceptably so. Adult drone population is noticeably reduced. We are doing powdered sugar shakes in all three hives as a measure against Varroa mites. In addition, we enforced a 24-day brood break in hive 2 by capturing the queen and isolating her in a cage inside the hive. So far, those measures seem to have been effective.

Hive 1

This is our strongest hive by far. They are putting up plenty of honey and pollen. This hive requeened itself (after assumed but unobserved swarm) in June. No problems with this hive after the initial infestation of SHB that came in with them.

Observations

  • About 10 frames of honey.
  • Lots of pollen – mostly as bee bread, mostly yellow and light orange.
  • No burr comb to speak of.
  • No drone cells.
  • No queen cups or cells.
  • No eggs seen.
  • Uncapped and capped brood of various ages. Good solid pattern.
  • Couldn’t find queen.
  • No phoretic mites seen.
  • No DWV seen.
  • No SHB adults or larvae seen.
  • No sign of wax moth damage or larvae.
  • Some backfilling of the outside frames of the brood area as expected for autumn drawdown.

Actions

  • Gave them the last of three planned sugar shakes to treat them (gently) against Varroa mites.
  • Removed small amount of empty burr comb.

Hive 2

This hive is strong, but has had issues. They requeened themselves (after presumed but unobserved swarm) in June. The new virgin queen was seen, but the new queen did not mate successfully (disappeared). The hive subsequently developed laying worker syndrome, but was requeened successfully with a mated queen from Allen Johnson. Since the laying worker period, the hive has shown a very strong propensity to build drone cells. In late July, we began seeing some DWV in the hive, and examination of the cutout drone brood showed a strong infestation of Varroa Destructor Mites.

We enforced a brood break in this hive by capturing the queen into a homemade queen cage frame on August 14, 2017. On August 22, 2017, we gave them (and all of our hives) a powdered sugar sprinkle against the mites. A second sugar shake was done on August 30, 2017. The original plan was to requeen this colony at the end of a 24-day enforced brood break using an egg frame from one of the other hives. But the time of year isn’t right for that. We have also seen a lot of dragonflies around the property, one of which was actively hunting honeybees while we watched it. The last thing we want is for our new queen to not return from one of her mating flights this late in the year. After all, this hive is the one that had laying workers earlier in the summer. Since the Varroa infestation in the hive seems be under control (no more DWV and no phoretic mites seen), we decided to just release the existing laying queen from her cage.

Observations

  • About 15 frames of honey.
  • Trapped queen is still alive – her two trapped attendants dead of starvation.
  • The open part of the queen cage frame had a beautiful new white comb. I take this as a good sign that they are making new cells for their queen to lay in.
  • No drone cells.
  • No capped or uncapped brood, as expected.
  • Number of adult drones greatly reduced.
  • No phoretic mites seen.
  • No DWV seen.
  • No SHB adults or larvae seen.
  • No sign of wax moth damage or larvae.
  • No backfilling of outer brood frames as seen in the other two hives. This is a good sign, too. They are expecting her to lay in the empty cells.
  • When we opened the entries to the queen cage frame, workers immediately began going in (another good sign). After the inspection of the other hives, we took another look at the cage frame. She’s still inside, but still alive (another good sign).

Actions

  • Gave them the last of three planned sugar shakes to treat them (gently) against Varroa mites.
  • Opened the entries to the queen cage frame.
  • Removed new comb from queen cage frame.
  • Removed small amount of burr comb, and one queen cup.

Hive 3

This hive was established in June 2017 from a nuc given to us by a friend. The nuc was raised from her own stock using eggs from one of her own hives. The stock has a strongly Russian genetic background, but is not purebred. This is our smallest colony, due to having started late, and the Russian characteristic of building slowly. They have also been slow to put up stores, and we have supplemented them with honey frames from the other hives. We may need to continue that in order to help them overwinter.

Observations

  • Much more honey today. Looks like they may be able to overwinter without supplement.
  • Lots of pollen – mostly as bee bread, mostly yellow and light orange.
  • No burr comb to speak of.
  • No drone cells.
  • One queen cup (left in place).
  • Eggs present.
  • Uncapped and capped brood of various ages. Good solid pattern.
  • Couldn’t find queen, but she must be present (eggs).
  • No phoretic mites seen.
  • No DWV seen.
  • No SHB adults or larvae seen.
  • No sign of wax moth damage or larvae.
  • Interestingly, these bees were much nicer than the other two colonies this week. They didn’t even get too excited about the smoke or the powdered sugar.

Actions

  • Gave them the last of three planned sugar shakes to treat them (gently) against Varroa mites.

Plan of Action

  • Within the next few days (definitely before the arrival of the hurricane), we will change out the oil in the oil traps under all three hives.
  • At the same time, we will go back into Hive 2 to ensure that their queen has left the isolation frame. Hopefully, we will either see her or see eggs to confirm she’s back on the job.

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