After bee school and before dinner at Lavomatic, I did some work with the bees. The weather was gorgeous, and it was the first time since fall that I could spend some time in the colony without disturbing things. So, I smoked the bees and then dug around in the brood boxes and examined 80% of the frames.
This is what I found:
- There was far less honey stored than I thought. Spring came just in time.
- The bottom box was a ghost town…no bees and no honey. Several of the frames had a grayish-colored mold on the comb.
- The bees had completely eaten the foundation from a couple of the frames.
- All the bees have moved up into the top box. This is the winter pattern…the cluster starts in the bottom brood box and it eats its way upward as the winter progresses.
- They have begun to store more pollen and raise brood in the top box.
- You know, I completely forgot to take pictures. That would probably help you see what I’m talking about…but once I get involved out there, I forget about documenting anything. I’ll try to remember next time.
This is what I did:
- I cleaned up the moldy frames. I cleaned the extra lumps of comb from the frames, too.
- I unstacked both brood boxes and removed the bottom board (which was loaded with winter debris…the amount of debris surprised me).
- I replaced the old-fashioned bottom board with a new screen-bottom board (this improves ventilation, and it gives me a way to check for mites as the season progresses).
- I reversed the brood frames as I restacked them.
- The box with all the bees went on the bottom, and the ghost-town box went on top. Bees work their way upward, so now they know there’s room above them and won’t decide to swarm (when they sense they’re out of room, they develop a new queen and swarm).
- I removed the queen excluder and the honey super I put on there a few days ago (I added that super to give the bees room so they wouldn’t swarm. But reversing the brood boxes gives me the same benefit while also assuring the bees first fill the two brood boxes with honey for themselves. Always insure the bees survival before harvesting the honey).
- I put a few lumps of bee candy on the inner cover. Though things are bustling, there’s still not enough pollen to keep the engine going. So, I’m supplementing.
- Today I’ll feed them concentrated sugar water in an entrance feeder…2:1 sugar to water. Moisture is a problem in hives at this time of year (and based on the mold I saw, we’ve got a moisture issue), so we want less water and more sugar.