Time to Open the Hives, Check on the Bees

Author: Meera, January 19, 2015
Honeybees make a nice sundown snack for marauding skunks and raccoons

Worker honeybees on a frame of wax



My honeybees have become surprisingly active for the dead of winter. Local forecasters tell us that the Bay Area temperatures may reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the week. My apple and early peaches won’t wait; they’ve already blossomed.


The warm weather, time of year together with the fact that almond trees will be blooming in a couple of weeks and the lavender around my farmette is already blooming tells me I have to open the hives. My beekeeper neighbor says that his bees are already out collecting pollen–lots of it–and that means we have to get to work.


The hives have to be checked now for mold (that long period of hard rain in December caused some of my neighbor’s frames to mold). Moldy frames can’t be renewed; they have to be tossed. Honeybees can get nosema (with diarrhea), which shows up as spots at the base of the hive.


The bees are finding flowers on their forage runs and are returning to the hive laden with pollen.



The honeybee queen's "house"

The honeybee queen’s “house”



Bee queens will be busy laying eggs in the coming weeks, if they aren’t already. This is the time for beekeepers to purchase new queens.¬† By the first week in April, it’s possible we could see swarming.


So here’s the plan. If the hives have a lot of honey, I’ll harvest some. Strange to be doing that in winter, but the hive will need¬† space for brood. I’ll have to remove frames of honey and insert empty frames with wax (put in the freezer first for a period to kill any pest they might be harboring over).


I’ll put bee food patties in the open hives, so they’ll have plenty to eat (once I take some of their honey). My beekeeper neighbor tells me this will get the hive “heated up” for the queen to do what she does best–lay the eggs.


With so much activity, I’m confident that everything will turn out well, but you never know until you’ve inspected the interior of the hive and checked out everything, including the possibility of mold or the presence of pests or illness.



Golden honey draining from a frameinto a glass dish

Golden honey draining from a frame
into a glass dish



Mother Nature didn’t ask me, but I would have preferred she wait another month before removing her winter robes and dressing in spring florals. It just seems like now everything to do with the hives is on fast forward!



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