I managed to take a peak into the the hives at the home apiary (I’m sure by now you guys have realized that these hives receive the most attention by far). The temperature broke 60 deg. F. so I decided to get a jump on the hive spring cleaning. While getting into the first hive it dawned on me that I should probably give a quick run down on what I do and what to look for in the early spring. I also came upon what in my mind is a very rare occurrence this time of year.
I broke into the first hive with my usual puff of smoke in the entrance and one or two more in under the inner cover (or in this case candy board). I break the hive down to the bottom board. You will usually need to clean off any left over dead bees and sugar from the candy board. My bees had this practically accomplished on their own. I just walked away from the hive a good distance gave it a quick thump on a cinder block and took it back to the hive site.
When I start reassembling the hive I place the bottom board back on the hive stand (cinder blocks). Then I place what used to be the top box onto the bottom board. I gave this box a quick inspection. All I really need to see is that they have a viable queen. You will want to find eggs or the queen herself. I was able to find just that.
I also found all stages of brood. Not so much open brood except there were a lot of eggs. Then several frames of capped brood. This tells me that the queen probably just in the last few days started laying nearly in full swing. Once I had all of the information I needed I quickly set what used to be the bottom box on top of the other then placed that top feeder and outer cover. I did not do a frame by frame on this colony, there simply is no need this time of year. All I need to know is weather or not the queen survived. It’s best to be brief with your inspections this time of year. If the queen had not survived I could have combined the two colonies until a time when queens could be mated. One thing that did catch my attention as very odd is this.
It is extremely early to see a capped drone cell. Its the only one I found, and at this time of year as far as I know is unheard of in my area. I’ll have to ask around to see if anyone else is finding drone brood.
The second hive I didn’t go nearly as in depth with my inspection. They were not very happy to have a guest in their hive. I just disassembled the hive, and performed the spring cleaning. They were similar in strength to the previous colony they just had a bad attitude. I’m blaming this on my late start. I spent far too much time looking for the pollen patties that must have gotten thrown away over the winter. I quickly reassembled the hive in the same way as above. I inverted the boxes and closed them up.
The reason I invert the boxes this time of year is because it’s typical that a queen likes to lay eggs in the top box. Doing this gives her a place to go and lots of empty cells to lay in. I will also try to invert the boxes about every two weeks during the nectar flow. I lost a very good queen last year because my timing of keeping a new box on top didn’t match her timing of filling the box with brood. By giving a few frames a look this time of year you can gauge weather the colony has enough stores to make it through as well. I was please to find a few remaining frames of honey. They were also bringing in a fair amount of pollen. I think their getting this pollen out of our calf feed because I see several bees around it throughout the day. I have heard reports of some white pollen coming in from other beekeepers so it could be something else as well.
I think this is a fairly apt description of what my early spring prep looks like. To give you guys a quick apiary update all four hives are alive and well. I still have to go over and take care of things at Meyers Outyard, however it depends on the weather over the next couple of weeks. Thanks for reading and hopefully these tactics work for you if you opt to try them.