The slight increase in temperature brings out the blooms, the bees, and shorts above the knees. While I wouldn’t’ say it is quite warm enough for shorts just yet, the Boise State students seem to take advantage of any day above 60 degrees to temporarily bring out their summer wardrobe. The good news is the bees are buzzin’ and happy! I find it rewarding to take a brief moment and watch my bees fly in and out of their hive. You can tell a lot about a hive by observing this activity, especially when you haven’t done an inspection for a few months.
- Are there lots of bees flying in and out? That’s one indication that their population is growing and that they are strong.
- Are there very few bees flying in and out? This can indicate that the population is low and that the hive did not fare winter well.
- Do you notice that the bees re-entering your hive are carrying bright colors of pollen on their legs? (I like to call them “pollen pants”. It has a cute ring to it). This tells you that your bees are already foraging to bring in resources!
You might even get the chance in the near future to open up your hive for a first spring inspection! Keep your eye on the weather and wait for a day that is around 65 degrees and sunny. Cool, cloudy, or windy days will make for a difficult hive inspection. Below is a list, although not comprehensive, of what you might do or look for in your first inspection of the season:
- First and foremost – do you have a living, thriving, and performing queen? You can tell she is doing her job to keep the hive alive by looking at her work. Are there solid patterns of capped brood, eggs, and larvae? If so, your hive is looking good already! If not, don’t hesitate to requeen as soon as possible. Holding onto a queen that isn’t performing WILL result in a dead hive. There are local folks in the Treasure Valley Beekeepers Club that will be selling queens. Join to learn more!
Here is a picture of an ideal frame of capped brood:
Here is a picture of a frame with spotty brood, indicating a failing queen that needs to be replaced:
- Take a look at where the brood (baby bees) are located in your hive. You’ll want to flip flop your boxes if you notice that your brood is all in your top hive box (this is also known as “reversing hive bodies”). Bees naturally want to move upward in a hive over the course of winter. They have no further to move once they have reached the top of the boxes, so reversing your hive boxes can be an easy way to give them more room to move upward.
- The bottom board in your hive is likely covered in dead mites, little bits of wax and other debris. Take this chance to clean off your bottom board.
- Count the number of mites in your hive using the alcohol or powdered sugar roll method. Mites love to multiply in the brood of our hives, and right now the brood nest is growing. Therefore, the mites will multiply like crazy if we don’t take the chance to knock them down, if needed. There are lots of options for mite treatments, and I find this article to be a comprehensive list of your options with pro and cons.
The anticipation over the winter builds up, and opening your hive for the first time in spring can be so exciting! I recently did a first spring hive inspection and had some great news and bad news. Stay tuned for my next blog on what I found and what I plan to do next. Regardless of what you find, don’t give up! A persistent beekeeper that continues to learn is what makes a great beekeeper!
Keep your bees buzzin’ y’all!