Don’t count your Yellow and Black Chickens before they emerge!

When last we left our valiant beekeepers, the season was ending with hope on the horizon. Mites were monitored closely through the year, European Foulbrood had been treated, two of the three hives had plentiful stores and some fall feeding had occurred.

We know one hive did not survive.

After weeks of hefting to check their stores and adding sugar cakes to the top, today was the day! We donned our veils, lit the smoker and Tyler, Elly and I all went into the two-remaining hives.

Being mindful of sanitation in case foulbrood is still present, we used a different hive tool for each hive and did alcohol washes for tools and hands. We cracked open the 1.5 story ‘Debbie’ hive first. There was still plenty of sugar cakes in the top – danger of starving managed! There were about 7 bee seams in the bottom story and 3 – 4 in the top story. A decent level of bee population but not bursting at the seams, which is a good thing at this point. Looked on the bottom of the frames and found no evidence of swarming. The bottom board looked super clean and dry with only a little bit of sugar and capping wax.

The second hive, which we call ‘Elly’, we opened up the single story. About 4.5 bee seams. So less bees at this time, but they were happy. The bottom board had evidence of moisture which we hypothesize may have been from the fall feedings. No swarm cells and again a decent amount of pollen and some nectar coming in. In addition, we saw capped brood and emerging ‘baby bees’ as we made our observations.

Status Summary RE: Our purposes for checking today –  

  • Do we have a laying queen?
  • Do we see signs of European foulbrood (EFB) or chalk brood disease? (if we find these, we will need to act to eradicated from the hive, early detection is ideal)
  • Do they still have food? Are they bringing in resources or do we need to feed them?
  • Do they have enough room to continue to grow?

For hive one the answers were – yes to the laying queen…she was so pretty! (see photo below) but not a lot of brood to speak of, but looked like she was getting started up. Eggs were plentiful in the medium story so we excluded the queen and will let the workers raise those bees, then remove the story; yes – to signs of chalkbrood but mild; not yet – to signs of EFB; and HOLY COW to the resources… so much pollen and even some decent nectar. The bees were docile and happy, as were their keepers. No extra room needed.

For hive two the answers were – yes to the laying queen…a darker gal who was much more active. Emergence of new bees was already happening and eggs were plentiful. Chalkbrood. On the EFB front, we saw one suspect larva that was kind of off white. Not too concerned as it could have been the lighting. Again, bringing in resources (pollen and nectar) so we will keep an eye on the weather and activity to determine if we need to feed. No extra room needed.

The hives were scouted a second time for EFB a few days later and in the absence of any evidence, we will begin to treat with antibiotics we have left over from last year. The reason being the presence last year of this disease and the goal is to ensure it is completely eradicated from this apiary. We still consider them in quarantine until they come through NEXT winter with no signs of disease. In this process both queens were marked – ‘Debbie’ red for 2023 and ‘Elly’ yellow for 2022. This makes them a bit easier to see, but also we can more easily tell if the hive has replaced their queen.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience. We know that if we find foulbrood in this apiary, we will need to shake the bees onto new equipment to ensure we have gotten rid of it. With small populations, that will limit the amount of equipment we would need to replace which is awesome.

We are excited for warm weather and growing colonies.