Taking a sneek peak into two of my 6 spring nuc starts off queen cell splits, I was greeted by this: beautiful single eggs in the bottoms of cells. I couldn't find the newly mated and now laying beautifully spring queen. She's still plumping up. It was SO HARD to see the eggs, since they were just laid and don't have any royal jelly surrounding them (yet). But the nurses are working on that.
This nuc was also drawing out 3 new frames beautifully. Can you tell the honey flow is on? They're drawing, filling and capping with fresh spring honey as they go! This is another thing that makes me smile ear to ear.
I had to be sure I was seeing the eggs clearly, so in for a closer look I went. Yes, my eyes cried mercy as they were able to see the eggs but not spot the new queen. The irony. Bees always have the last laugh.
The second nuc I peeked into, which I started with a frame of food and a frame of brood with queen cells just as the other one, greeted me with a glorious new comb packed with capped honey, nectar and a little bit of pollen as the wax bees work en masse.
This is the flip-side of that same frame. They've started in the middle, working down and out (except for a start at the right, which must've been a bee that didn't get the memo that day on the preferred location to draw this frame).
The second nuc was not as calm as the first. A little nervous, not at all defensive, quiet, but ... JITTERY. Waggle dances were going on all over the place. And EGGS, yes, I spotted SINGLE EGGS, and some larvae floating in jelly. So this queen had mated a day or two earlier than the first nuc I peeked into. More success! Out of 6 attempted spring starts in my second round, at least a third are successful. But ... wait a minute, what's that on the right-hand side of the frame, just underneath the honey stores?
Yep, a new supercedure queen cell underway. I didn't have to look inside it to know there was a larvae, since I could see nurses actively working it on all sides, packing it with royal jelly and spinning out the wax.
And yes, another supercedure cell being created on the other end of the frame as well, just underneath the honey stores. Why would the bees be trying to create a new queen when a new one just successfully hatched, oriented, mated and returned already laying? Well, they just know that she is not well mated or somehow else not up to their standards. I didn't see this second new queen, either, and part of me knew it was because my eyes were trying to find her. Learning to spot queens is tricky. You have to NOT LOOK in order to SEE. It takes practice, but your eyes learn the trick. When the mind takes over, though, and is actively talking to you trying to find her it's nigh impossible. But no matter, single eggs in a tight pattern, new comb being drawn out mightly, and two new queen cells. This start will take more time than the other to get up to full speed, but no matter. I wrote down in my notes, "Trust the bees!" They know, and so have started a third round of spring queens without my even trying or being involved. Well done, girls! Hopefully in another month they'll have another new queen to their liking. And I'll just let them. Trust the bees. Boy how they make me smile.
Ah, beautiful Easter weekend in Carolina, how I love thee.
It rained the majority of the time, preventing me from working the bees. But I had no need to this weekend, thanks to my spiffy new software Hive Tracks. It keeps me organized, including a constantly changing and updating to-do list. On that list? Installing new foundation into frames. I made the leap to Plasticell foundation from Dadant in all sizes, buying the waxed plastic sheets that are re-usable and sturdy. But just to make it even more irresistible for my bees to draw, I re-coated the sheets with their own wax, too. Having never done this before, I opted to use a shallow pan on my hotplate since I don't have a ton of wax. Doing this requires a cement floor and a place out of sight to hide the mess.
The shallow rectangular pan was a perfect size to dip the sheets into, deep, medium and shallow foundation. However, the pan expanded and contracted as the hot plate did its work, so I had to constantly watch the pan and make sure it didn't tip over (yes, it did a couple of times, so there I was scraping wax off the cement floor).
After 40 or so I got the hang of it, sliding and dipping one side, rotating it, then knocking it against the bottom of the pan to release excess wax. Then I stood the sheets up vertically to cool. After 20 were done, I went back and coated the undipped halves.
Once all that was done for this round of waxing foundation, I got some of the sheets installed into the frames. Remember my divided bottom bars on some of my frames? Well, Plasticell needs a grooved bottom bar. So on those I stapled a popsicle stick on the bottom and it was good to go. Those sheets snapped right into place, then bam, bam, bam I stapled in the wedge and one frame done in seconds. THAT makes me love Plasticell. I went with black on the deep and medium sheets to help my eyes see the tiny bee eggs when inspecting (the shallow sheets are yellow). As I was coating these sheets, I had a few visitors buzzing around my room. My bee room smelled so amazing and wonderful of beautiful beeswax. All in all I used up almost 8 pounds of wax on 20 sheets of deep foundation, 20 medium and 20 shallow sheets. Now that's cleared from the shelves. I also rendered my collection of wax cappings from last year's honey harvest I'd taken out of the freezer a day earlier, some stretched foundationless frames of partial combs and a whole bunch of burr comb my mentees and I had gathered off some boxes this spring. So I've got another round of wax ready to harvest and use to coat more sheets. "It's THEIR wax, give it back to them!" I kept telling myself, sometimes out loud. "They'll reward me with so much new comb, new bees and new honey!"
When it wasn't raining, T's Bees were hard at work (and sometimes even when it was raining). Here a lovely bee works this spring's holly blooms, which smell so wonderful and permeate the breezes here in Carolina.
Dogwoods in bloom is one of my most favorite things in life, and signs of early spring.
And another is seeing fresh virgin wax being spun out by my nucleus hives (or nuc's). In fact, they are drawing out new combs faster than I anticipated. This is a sure sign that spring is in full swing. And yes, this is Duragilt foundation, that stuff everyone says bees will not draw out. This frame has been in this nuc for only a week, and it was one of two frames. Both are about half-way finished and should be completed within a week. These nuc's are working like gangbusters to give their queens ample room to lay, and a-laying they are!
Azaleas, too, are putting on a show.
Everything seems like it's blooming right now, but the truth is that it's only begun. The first flowers of spring are truly spectacular, including this humble ivy. I had no idea its flowers were so beautiful. I wonder, do my bees visit these? The smells of the hive have truly shifted, sudden and powerfully. At first it was overwhelming. Then I realized, "Yes, spring truly is here and the nectar flow is really hitting hard."
There is an amazing perfume floral smell that is so overwhelming in the hives I thought there might be a problem until I smelled more closely and realized it's the overwhelming smells of all the different nectars and pollens coming into the hives. Then I smelled the beautiful tiny flowers on a row of holly bushes, and that is most definitely something I've been smelling coming in the hives recently and in a powerful way. This yellow swallowtail certainly knows. I had no idea holly smelled so sweet. It is truly strong and wonderful to the nose. I had to watch my face as I buried my nose in the hedge, hoping I wouldn't get stung by any of the honey bees, wasps, bumble bees, mason bees and even flies that are attracted to the holly's nectar. I have a new-found respect for holly.
And here is a sight that is both beautiful and frightful all at the same time. My 2014 White Dot Queen nuc has exploded, and in an effort to give itself more room for the queen to lay it constructed comb on the side of its inner feeder. So until I cut the comb out and string it into a frame, that feeder stays in. What's unfortunate is that they've constructed this comb so that she is laying on both the underside and outside of this comb. This is going to be a project. I decided to save it for a future weekend endeavor. But, look at that beautiful tight laying pattern of worker brood. I think I know what I'll be doing this coming weekend: clean-up and expansion of this amazing nuc turned full-size hive.
Alas, I couldn't let that be the last shot of this post, not when there are so many glorious dogwoods to show. I love living in an established neighborhood with even more established trees that put on glorious displays each and every spring and fall.
And this is just an ordinary bush, at least that's what I always thought until I saw it in bloom the other day. Spring in sweet Carolina is truly something to behold! Just ask my bees, and they will tell you.
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Tom Davidson is the owner and beekeeper at T's Bees.
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