Monday, February 7, 2011

Of lack and increase

Four full days of over 70 degrees meant a lot of garden time this weekend. It also meant that fellow beekeepers were reporting lots of capped drone brood, queen cells, generally hives ready to split. I figured I had better get out there and give the girls a look.


Anybody home?

This hive, my "dark" hive, didn't look great. They've been bothered by ants for some time, despite my best efforts to banish the pests. I opened it up, and here's a nice frame of pollen:

But this was the edge of the brood nest. Deserted, and with a weird pattern:

Looking closely at the caps, you can see perforations:

That's the bee way of dealing with dead or diseased or pest-ridden larvae.

Looking at the bees that were in the cells, I saw a lot of tongues sticking out. I think these starved to death. . . although I just realized I forgot to do the tip/look for frass tests for Varroa.

The few remaining bees were yumming up the honey -- not much in the hive, either.

I guess you could call easy queen sighting an upside of a terribly dwindled hive.

And I had my marking kit, but not the right year color -- I decreed that red would be easiest to see, even though this year's color is white.

Being me, I managed to drop her (of course) although she seemed none the worse for the drop. I can see why keeping weeds down around hives is a great idea.

Deeper in the brood nest, they were eating larvae. This hive is either starving or reacting to a pest. Either way, it's unsustainable.

Hungry and dead:

My "better hive" was also looking a little thin:

At least there were two or three frames that looked like this:

The queen must have been on this frame for me to take the picture, but I couldn't find it in the editing program. Go figure.

I did find her -- the golden one. Then I dropped her, caught her again, then marked her with red. I hope I didn't get too much paint on her, because killing her by marking her would be so stupid as to be unforgivable. Tomorrow, both hives need compressing into one box and feeding with bags of sugar syrup. Obviously I'm not making any splits any time soon. I'll be lucky to nurse even one of these hives into survival, I'm afraid. Bummer.

But little by little, I'm climbing out of my months-long slump. Eric has been unusually helpful in the garden, despite his partial amputation via table saw. His finger is hanging in there (har har) and he helped me hoop and bird net two beds much more securely than I would have been able to do on my own:

Just like that. The sides lift up; the ends are capped with their own flat piece of the nasty plastic netting. I planted "Tacoma" peas, an afilia type, and some flowers in that bed. I also put out some iron snail bait, since they are the #2 pest in my garden for seedlings.

I also found a flat of seeds I'd sown had started sprouting, so I moved them under a wad of bird netting.

And then spent the rest of the weekend wheelbarrowing horse manure and stable sweepings back into the too-low beds.

Those are still awaiting hose lifting, blood meal applications, and general tilling, but a small bed got all three:

No birds are going to get that tiny lettuce bed, at least not until I take the Reemay off.

I planted thickly in rows, figuring I'd eat them small until they were spaced correctly, or maybe I'll transplant. It feels good to at least be making headway. I'd thought I was possibly not going to have a garden this year.

We may have apples, though. The Anna tree is looking exceptionally lovely:

And the Katy apricot is blooming almost all over. A few bees wandered over, but I'm worried about having another outbreak of brown rot. I hope the dry weather helps.

Assuming, of course, it holds. Well, always an adventure.


meemsnyc said...

Sorry to hear about the dead bees. Hopefully they will do better as one hive. Question for you, how do you secure those hoops down in the raised beds. Do you drill them to the wood to keep them in place?

Erin said...

sorry to hear about the bees! I hope they show signs of health and rebound soon. Lots of work going into those beds this year!

meems, easy stuff - pound some rebar into the beds and then slip the pvc hoops right over them, they'll stay up in a hurricane even (but not the plastic LOL)

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

As budding beekeepers we've attended a number of bee guild meetings in recent months, and at last night's meeting it seems your hive woes are quite common among fellow beekeepers at the moment. It's almost overwhelming at times to realize all the things that can happen to hives. Beetles, mites, moths, and all sorts of assorted invaders. At the moment ants are our biggest worry, almost more than least we feel that ants we have more potential control over. We have tons of them, and I'm always accidentally stepping in ant nests in the orchard, so trying to devise our hive stand to be as ant proof as possible is our current challenge.

I do hope that combining your hives helps to shore up your girls enough. Do you think the Queen from the first hive you opened is still laying? At least if you combine hives, you'll have an extra home for a spring swarm this season. Good luck, I'm crossing my fingers for a happy ending!

Heiko said...

Hope your bees will recover. Apricot already blossoming, you bare ahead of us, even if we have had a some 10 days of pleasant weather. Still gets cold at night though. I've started sowing peas and spreading manure. Great to see things start of again.

Stefaneener said...

meemsnyc, it is a problem. I'm hoping that shrinking and feeding will help. The posts are just pushed into the bed, as I'm not worried about wind through bird netting. It's still a temporary solution, I'm afraid.

Erin, thanks. Good idea about the rebar. I may have to try it.

CVS, it is ALWAYS something. This one I sort of feel was my fault -- they clearly didn't have enough stores to get through the winter. Gotta feed! I'm going to keep them separate for now.

Heiko, we'll get another cold snap but for now, all is spring. Hang in there.

Ribbit said...

Bee, Veggie AND Fruit post. Be still my beating heart.

I'm in Stefaneener heaven. Love those bee pictures.

kitsapFG said...

That's tough about the one hive - really looks like it is stressed and canibalizing on itself. Can you provide them with a food source to take the pressure off?

Totally envious of your lovely weather!