After evaluating a honey bee colony’s over-winter survival success, the beekeeper can observe other desirable traits for continuous stock improvement. The speed of a bee colony’s springtime population build-up is determined by the queen’s genetic make-up. It is also affected by the age of the queen and the queen’s successful mating with a large number of drones. Conditions in the environment also affect spring build-up. Favorable weather, producing ample pollen from flowers stimulates the queen to lay eggs. The beekeeper can stimulate the queen in the same manner by feeding pollen substitute in late winter and early spring. A honey bee colony’s behavior is largely dependent upon the queen’s genetics. Excessively defensive behavior can result from inbreeding or Africanized Honey Bee genetics. Drones in the hive’s surrounding area can influence a hive’s behavior if the drones impart defensive genes during queen mating flights. Environmental conditions also affect a honey bee colony’s behavior. A normally gentle colony is likely to become highly defensive if the hive is attacked by skunks at night. The beekeeper’s actions in manipulating the hive greatly affect the bees’ defensive behavior.
A bee hive’s brood pattern should contain large areas of continuous capped cells of pupae with few empty cells. Today’s photo is an example of an excellent brood pattern produced by a prolific queen. However, genetic conditions can negatively affect the brood pattern. Inbreeding results in brood with many empty cells. The bacterial infections, European foulbrood and American foulbrood, also leave brood with many empty cells. An environmental factor affecting brood pattern is the presence of Varroa mite-infested hives in the surrounding area which may spread these parasitic mites, often by workers robbing weak or collapsing hives. In the early spring, it is common for bees to fill brood nest cells needed by the queen for egg laying with nectar. The beekeeper can significantly affect a hive’s brood pattern by rearranging frames to help prevent brood nest congestion during a strong nectar flow.--Richard