Here we have an interesting very visible example of a colony controlling drone populations.
I made a nuc from this hive earlier this year by taking their queen and a frame of eggs, a frame of honey, and some bees, this led to them going queen-less for some time, I actually had to put another frame of eggs in because they had failed to make a new queen.
So now they are queen-right and she is laying LOTS of eggs, problem solved. One thing that had worried me a bit was the sheer number of drones in this hive, at one point it seemed like there were more drones than workers.
This picture also solved a mystery with this hive, often I would hear ticking sounds coming from this one hive, I knew what they were I just didn’t know why it was making those sounds. The sound in question is caused by a bee falling onto an empty frame bottom, it makes sense cause the workers are in essence “beating up” the drones trying to get them to leave, so the drones are scrabbling around trying to find food (they can’t feed themselves).
This is a fascinating shot, it exposes a part of bee behavior that was previously unknown to me. I actually have seen bees in a swarm carrying bits of wax with their mandibles. I’m not sure why so few bees do this, it almost seems like an extension of their propolis collecting function, but as you can see in the picture she is choosing only the best wax, not propolis (due to its color on her baskets).
I also know they will strip wax from parts of the hive that are under-worked. I wonder if they are selecting for purity, she is very picky about what wax she will collect. (the black spots are earwig poop, probably from removing the lid cover)
Been another winter, not much happens during the winter really, so I thought I would post an update, still no pictures, the only thing I could photograph is more bee poop. I have seven hives alive at the moment, we still have over a foot of snow on the ground and the weather is still hitting -10c at night. But the days are getting longer!
Of the hives, I lost (had 15 to start the winter) one was already dead and robed out, another was also dead but not totally empty, and 3 others were either light on stores or barely hanging on from the previous year. That leaves two that died for reasons I do not know yet.
Both of my favorite hives survived, one being the daughter of my favorite hive number 5 I think, my nasty Italian hive made it, and a few of its daughters. One of my bait hives did survive the other was the robed-out one that didn’t. This year I am planning to make small nucs from my best hives like I did last year with number 5, but this year I will have numbers 5, 2, and possibly another to make nucs with.
I made a few interesting observations this year since I have more hives than last year.
Drones, This year I had oodles of drones during May, then after the swarming hives swarmed I noticed a severe drop in drone numbers across all my hives, I even saw some workers kicking out living drones. During July there was hardly a drone to be seen, fortunately, all my hives were queen right so the lack of drones wasn’t an issue.
In June I began weighting my four box hives every week, most of them hardly put any weight on at all, this had me worried, all through June and July the honey income was anemic even my best hive seem to have stalled, I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong with my scale. Then the last week of July and the first of August we started to get some rain, I am starting to see a few drones plus hive number 5 put on 8kg in 10 days, number 5 is roaring with activity, its daughter (number 2 nuc I made in may) has almost a full box of honey now.
My conclusion is we must have had a dearth, it was very dry this year too, some places had drought conditions. I also suspect our early year resulted in a very low clover flow, since farmers had to cut their hay early then we had a long dry period the white and alsike clover didn’t get a chance to flower.
Another thing I have noticed is some of my hives are booming and others seem content to stay small (nearly one box) I’m wondering if the bees from many of my hives think they only have a single box. Next year I will try moving a couple of filled frames down when I am under super, this might encourage more development, one of my hives even swarmed three times from only one box I figure they didn’t get the memo, it might have something to do with the frame bottoms acting like a floor (pure speculation).
I also plan to try extracting the honey from my frames to preserve the comb, I want to see if this will improve production. Most folks don’t like comb honey, so if I can improve production by saving the comb I would prefer this. I plan to label each frame so they go back into the same hives, I’m not sure if this is necessary though since I’m not swapping brood nest (possible cross-infection of hives). Ideas?
Just a quick update, bees are doing very well, all my two box hives are needing another box each so I’m working on frames (already have the box ready). Number One still has chalkbrood problems, I’m going to try an odd remedy Anita told me about, it seems to already be working on the other hive I have with chalkbrood problems.
You peel a banana and place the peel under the lid inside the hive on top of the frames, then you eat the banana, very strange but it does indeed seem to work. Number one will be a good test since they have had trouble ever since I put them in this hive, I remember giving them an old comb, I think this was the vector. The comb is best kept to a hive and not traded around unless the mother hive is free of problems.