Saturday, May 15, 2010

It was a long, cold week

I couldn't believe it when I awoke to snow on Sunday morning. There was no accumulation but it did leave a powder white coating on the roof of my house for most of the morning. The next few days were cold and windy and rainy. There was no chance for the girls to get into the field and do any pollen or nectar gathering until Thursday.

I was regretting not using pollen patties to supplement the syrup I was feeding them. In fact, I bought some pollen patties but it was so cold that I didn't want to open the hives to get it to them. Pollen patties are a mixture of real pollen and pollen substitute which provides the bees with some protein, vitamins and minerals. Normally of course, they'd get this naturally as a part of their foraging. And they won't eat the patties when the real deal is available.

I did end up cutting up a patty and setting a piece right at the entrance to each hive. I also reduced the hive entrance to keep the wind and cold out.

Things warmed up on Thursday and there was healthy amount of activity at the hive. Normally, I would have done my hive inspection then but because they had such a rough week I figured I'd give them a day to recover.

As I watched the activity at the hive entrance on Thursday and Friday it seemed like many of the bees were doing orientation flights. In orientation flights the bees seem to fly in circles around the front of the hive, orienting themselves to the landmarks which enables them to find their way home from foraging.

Of course, after all the lousy weather they were probably doing a combination of orientation and cleansing flights. In "cleansing flights" bees take short flights to "go to the bathroom." They can hold it for quite awhile which during the winter it is often necessary to do.

I can hear some curious kid asking so here's the rest of the story. Sometimes during the winter, if they don't get a day above 45 degrees for more than a month... well, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go. You know how it is. Right kid? Everything gets cleaned up and put back in order in the spring.

Anyway, back to Friday and the hive inspection. I think I must have been in shock on the previous inspection when the whole section of comb fell on top of the hive. I say this because when I opened Clare on Friday things were not as I had remembered them last week.

No work had been done in the new hive body I had added so I pulled that off and examined the lower section. It looked busy and healthy but the frames were not drawn as I had noted in my posting last week. Specifically, neither frames 1 nor 2 were drawn. Had the bees undone their work or had I imagined what they looked like last Thursday? I must have imagined it.

I'm guessing the bees must have devoted much of their attention to keeping the brood warm during the cold spell and not much attention to drawing comb. I'm also thinking that when I added the hive body and then the cold weather hit I had inadvertently isolated the bees from the hive top feeder. They'd have to move from the well developed and warmer lower hive body up through the undeveloped and probably quite cold 2nd story to the feeder on top. Not much syrup was consumed during the past week which suggests they had a problem getting to it.

The section of comb I had wired to an empty frame was intact and actively being worked by the bees. There was an abundance of capped brood but not much pollen or nectar. They may have been living off that for the past week.

Conditions in Galway were comparable to Clare: lot's of capped brood, little pollen or nectar and not much syrup consumed. It was a tough week for the bees.

Here's hoping for a nice stretch of warm weather and maybe next week we can catch catch the emergence of some new bees from all that beautiful capped brood!

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