8.2.2013 The Bees in Early August

I just finished up a thorough inspection of my hives.  I am cautiously optimistic.  My captured swarm is a year old now and is by far the strongest of my hives.  There’s actually a little bit of honey in their honey super, but the frames are only partially capped and it can’t therefore be harvested.  There’s plenty of brood, capped and uncapped.  Lots of pollen tucked away.  Very little unused space. And the hive smells like it should.

Because she was all alone on a nearly empty frame, I did see this girl.

The cell phone doesn't do close ups.  Sorry for the blurry pic.

The cell phone doesn’t do close ups. Sorry for the blurry pic.

If you can look past the blur, you can see she’s missing her abdomen.  It looked like a deformity, not an injury.  I don’t know how she’s still alive, but she appeared perfectly able to get out and about.  Are there more mutants in the hive?  I didn’t see any, but I wasn’t really looking.  However, considering the sheer numbers of bees which hatch in a strong hive every year, (probably a couple hundred thousand) there are bound to be a few glitches every now and then.  Still, from what I read, it’s more likely she’s been pinched and doesn’t know she’s dead yet.  It could have been me as I moved the hive parts around.  It could have been a hornet, a dragonfly, or other bee predator.  Without an abdomen though, she doesn’t have all the necessary parts to sustain life.  It’s something to keep in the back of my mind and to look for the next time I do an inspection.

I did see one small hive beetle (I killed it.)  There are probably a few more, but not many.  Not like  . . .

The Orange hive which has been the big problem all year long.  It wanted to swarm, so I made a split.  It swarmed anyway.  Then it got wax moths and small hive beetles.  I have steadily whittling it down over the last month.  The last time I was in there on July 16th, I forced them down into one medium super and I left them alone for two and a half weeks.  When I opened the hive today, it still didn’t smell right and the small hive beetles were more noticeable than ever before.  There is very little pollen stored away, no capped honey but there was a bit of nectar.  This hive could really benefit from a pollen patty and a jug of hooch, but small hive beetles love pollen patties.  I’ve got to figure out a way to break up their life cycle without killing my bees.

But small hive beetles aside, the hive is in better condition than it was two and a half weeks ago.  They’ve gone from 1.5 frames of brood to 2.5 frames of brood and from over 50% empty frames to 25%.  Given the hatch cycle of brood, I would expect to see even less empty space and improved stores next week.  We’ll see.

Now about that smell.  My healthy hive smells like honey.  It’s the smell of wax foundation, only more intense.  That odor varies a bit as differing nectar sources come into the hive.  In the late fall, it still smells like honey, but it’s a “darker, heavier smell.”  When the hive doesn’t smell like that, I know something’s up.

I’ve read that a hive on alert or in attack mode smells like bananas. But I’ve never noticed the scent of bananas when working my hives.  Maybe that’s because I was more concerned with saving my own hide at the time.  Still, there are some beekeepers who advise against eating or handling bananas before working beehives.

Odors are hard to describe, but the orange hive has a very distinct smell to it that reminds me of a mobile home I lived in once.  It was damp and smelled of mold and mildew, combined with years of being sprayed with insecticide in a never ending battle against roaches.  It’s a musty and unpleasant smell, but it’s not one that makes me wrinkle my nose and wish I was somewhere else.

As for my other two hives – both are splits I made this year.  There is a trend upward in the amount of brood and stores and trend downward in unused space.  The two box Pink hive has some small hive beetle issues, the one box Blue hive seems not to have any.

Overall, only the Lavender hive had any drone comb and they didn’t have much.  I do still have a few drones walking in the hives, but they are very rare these days.  I hoping this means, I don’t have to worry about any late season swarms.

Any planto-o-philes out there know what variety of Goldenrod this is?

Any planto-o-philes out there know what variety of Goldenrod this is?

The good news is the Goldenrod  is beginning its bloom cycle and that’s a big source of fall nectar and pollen for bees.  Late July and early August seems early for Goldenrod, but I’ve no records to back that up.  (There are many varieties of Goldenrod that will come and go this fall.)  But it’s the Goldenrod family and the other fall blooming asters that give fall honey a distinctive darker aroma.  According to the fellas over at beesource.com, early Goldenrod isn’t a significant source of pollen or nectar.  But when the main Goldenrod flow starts you’ll know because your hives will smell like old gym socks and the wax will be stained a bright yellow.  Some people like the taste of Goldenrod honey, but it supposedly crystallizes fairly quickly.  Also folklore says when the early Goldenrod blooms frost is only six weeks away.  A frost in mid-September?  Yikes.  That’s a whole month ahead of schedule.

Are you ready for winter yet? I am most definitely not!

I shared this post at The Backyard Farming Connection Blog Hop #43.


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