For the beekeeper to produce a surplus of honey that can be harvested, it is important to encourage the honey bee colony to rapidly increase in population. Honey bees live in large colonies, and it takes a population of about 25 thousand bees to produce enough honey to sustain the colony. To produce a substantial surplus of honey, a population of 50 thousand or more bees is required. Building this large a population is the work of the queen bee. A productive queen may produce 1500 or more eggs per day. The number of eggs that she lays varies from one queen to the next. The quality of the queen is determined by her genetic make-up, the nutrition she received during her development, and the effectiveness of her mating with multiple drones. A disease-free colony with a productive queen is likely to make a good honey crop if it is located in a good forage area and the weather is favorable. If the queen is not productive in egg-laying, the hive will not produce a surplus of honey. The colony may even dwindle in size till it cannot defend itself from intruders.
The spring population build-up is the second measure we make when evaluating colonies. This follows measuring the success of surviving the winter. Over-winter success depends largely upon how the beekeeper prepares the hive in the fall. It also measures the resistance of the bees to certain conditions, like tracheal mites and Nosema disease. Spring build-up is the result of the beekeeper's early-season supplemental feeding of pollen and sugar as well as the quality of the queen bee. Click on today’s picture to see freshly-laid eggs. Fresh honey bee eggs stand upright in the cell. Their pearly-white color contrasts with the black foundation that we use at Peace Bee Farm. The nurse bees are adding a thin layer of milky-white royal jelly to the cells containing the eggs. Honey bees always store the protein-rich pollen close to the brood.--Richard