Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Late Summer Hive Inspection

Bee hive inspections of the brood nest are less frequently made on bee hives during the major nectar flows. The beekeeper can usually tell if the colony is queen-right by observing the bees from outside the hive. Hives should have considerable flight activity during daytime hours. Seeing bees returning to the hive with full pollen baskets usually indicates the bees are feeding brood. Lifting the weight of heavy honey supers in the heat of the summer to expose the brood nest is a real task. However, once the beekeeper removes the honey supers and harvests the honey, it is a good time to carefully examine the brood nest. In late summer, beekeepers should be making the same checks as they make at other times of the year. We need to see evidence that the colony has a laying queen, and check for signs of disease or parasites. If Varroa mite loads are excessive, now is a good time to treat the hive with “soft” treatments, like thymol products. Since nectar flows may not be strong in late summer, we need to know if the hive has enough honey to sustain the bees until fall flowers bloom. Finally, we need to see plenty of bees in the hive. It is not uncommon to see a number of dead bees on the ground in front of the hive. One hundred dead bees is probably normal; one thousand dead bees probably indicates a hive problem. Especially during a late summer nectar dearth, the bees may kill their drones. Uncapped, liquid honey may fill the cells most recently used to produce the colony’s last brood.

 Today’s photo shows a late summer queen starting to lay eggs. Like many new queens, her egg-laying pattern contains some skipped cells. Mixed stages of brood reveal eggs and larvae of different ages. Healthy larvae are pearly white in color. Cells containing pupae are capped with light brown colored, recycled beeswax. Honey is capped with freshly secreted, snow-white beeswax.


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