Is It Spring YET?

It started out like a typical Texas winter, some cold days, but mostly pretty days. I left the bees with plenty of stores for winter and reallocated honey from stronger hives to weaker hives. I’m so thrilled all six hives survived the winter.

So far, this year has started out very cold and very wet. By the middle of February, I was really looking forward to the warmer days of March. But Mother Nature had other plans. Freeze after freeze after freeze. Snow. Ice. Wind. On and on it seemed to drag, even into mid-March.

Icicles in January

Icicles in January

On pretty days I assembled empty hive bodies and supers and painted them pretty colors, like lavender, aqua, and yellow. I can’t wait to put bees in them. I also pulled the remaining honey in the supers on hives two and three, as well as a few frames from the deeps to start making room for the spring expansion.

hive colors

Today was finally the first warm day we’ve had in many weeks. I’ve been waiting to check on big hives, pacing the floor (inside, where it’s warm), worrying that it was warm enough in the hive for the queen to start laying even though the outside temperature wasn’t warm enough for me to go into the hives and become overcrowded. Overcrowded hives leads to swarming. I’ve learned that lesson well.

In hive two, the queen is laying in the top deep and there were several frames of uncapped honey. Most of the comb in the bottom deep was now empty as the brood from over winter had all hatched and the bees had slowly moved up into the top deep. Many beekeepers believe once the hive has moved up from the bottom box, they won’t go back into it because their nature is to move up. I’ve not found that to be true 100%, but I have seen it happen and it appeared to be happening in this hive.

Because I was working alone and the deeps can weigh around 100 pounds, I have to approach the management systematically. I also wasn’t able to get pictures because my photographer was off at his real job.

I set up an empty box on a table and moved frames of brood from the top box to the empty box. When it was light enough to move, I removed the top box and set it on the table. Next I checked all the frames in the bottom box. There was a little honey, but mostly empty frames. I removed it and set it on end in the grass.

Next was to reassemble the hive. Most of the brood frames are now centered in the bottom box with honey to either side. The top box has a couple of brood frames, a couple with honey, but mostly empty. And to top it all off, a honey super ready for them to draw comb and fill with honey. There were no swarm cells being formed yet, so hopefully they’ll appreciate all the new space. In a couple of weeks, I’ll check for brood and probably move some brood frames to hive one, which is much weaker because they swarmed mid-June last year.

The bee yard for hives three, four, and five is quite swampy after the 1.6″ rain we had earlier this week, so I wasn’t able to drive all the materials I’d need to do a deep check of hives three and four. Instead, I took just my smoker and hive tool to hive five for a check there.

Hive five is my favorite by far. The sweet queen is laying in both boxes. None of that waste of space for her! And her dutiful workers are bringing in lots of pollen and nectar, so they have new frames of honey to feed all those growing baby bees. I considered removing the robber screen I put up in January, but they seem to be navigating around it well enough and I don’t want to enable robbing again.

Next up on the list will be a deep check of hives three and four. Maybe I’ll have a photographer around to snap some cool pictures of the spring goings-on. But for now, I’ll enjoy the sunny day and keep ducking as the bees I disturbed hassle me in the yard. They’ll forgive me as soon as their tiny brains forget what happened.

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