First Inspection of 2014

Our normal day time high temps should be in the 50*F, but you can't tell that to Mother Nature. Up until this week the weather was hanging around in the mid 30*F.

I've overwintered a single hive this year at the house. I opened them today and found they were still covering 6 frames in the top box.

The white chunks are leftover fondant they're still working on.

Each year I am surprised to find that the bees move up to the top of the hive right away during winter without consuming all the resources in the lower box first.

I'm not talking about when they're in a tight cluster and can't move laterally in the bottom box, so they move up to get access to more honey because they consumed the middle 5 frames and are now empty.

I'm talking about when the bottom box had capped honey in all 10 frames. Capped honey throughout the top arch of each frame and uncapped below it, and they still moved up into the top box.

(Frame from bottom box, capped on top, uncapped w/ pollen on bottom)

When the hive went into winter, it had almost 19 frames of capped honey and pollen.

Now, all 10 frames from the top box were virtually empty minus a few random cells. There was almost no pollen left either. They were living on the fondant I gave them a few weeks ago, cluster in the now empty top frames.

This explains why I saw eggs, but not too terribly many eggs. The queen is working with the limited resources she has to sustain new brood right now.

I don't know why they left the bottom box of honey behind and/or when the weather finally warmed up, they didn't go back down to the bottom box to get the food and pollen.

I took all the empty frames from the top box (that had no bees/brood) and switched them with the capped frames of honey from the lower box.

Now there are 6 frames of capped honey and pollen divided on either side of the cluster/brood in the top box, and 4 more in the bottom box.

I took this picture of the hive torn apart to remind myself that I left two frames out of the bottom box. I wanted to retire 2 frames from this hive this year to rotate out old, blackened comb and replace with new, but forgot to bring two new frames with me.

They won't be filling in the cavity with burr comb right now because they're not drawing any new wax yet.

Right now I'm just excited they survived the (extended) winter we've had this year.

Comments For This Post: (4) | Post Your Comments! Hide The Comment Form
Robin says...
Date:   March 10, 2014, 4:12 pm

Yay!!   I'm so happy to see your bees.   We've seen a lot of wild bees this year and I've ordered two more nucs to replace my deadouts - I'm excited to get started again this year.

I don't understand why they leave stuff behind in the lower box.   I've been thinking about how my bees built last year and I might need to change how I tuck them in for the winter.   It'll be interesting to see how they build this year.  

Tim says...
Date:   March 13, 2014, 5:07 pm

At least your bees are still alive after the bad winter you had over there, I assume that a lot of people would've lost more colonies than usual.

Clinton says...
Date:   March 15, 2014, 11:19 pm

Maybe it's simple physics of heat. Since cold drops and heat rises, maybe they just followed the heat up.

We have no data or evidence showing that bees understand the concept "if we move towards that cold bottom, we'll find more food."

Once they get to the top, can't go up so possibly they just "mushroom" out.

Chris (Show Me The Honey) says...
Date:   March 16, 2014, 10:52 am

I hadn't considered they might follow the warmth upwards, but I do like the concept and it makes sense to me!

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