Monday, August 3, 2015

Suspicious Bee Hives

Honey bees don’t care what their hive looks like. They don’t mind what color it is painted or whether it is painted at all. Their only concern is that the hive is of sufficient size, dry, and ventilated. I helped a beekeeper assess the bee hives shown in today’s photo. The owner of the hives, wanting to make a sale, said that the hives held plenty of bees. At a distance, it appeared that indeed was the case. With afternoon temperatures around 100 degrees, bees covered the face of many of the 31 hives we inspected. This is quite normal behavior; when it’s hot, bees regulate the hive temperature by extending the distance between bees, moving bees outside the hive, bringing in water for evaporative cooling while fanning a breeze through the hive with their wings. These hives, however, were choked by honey stored in all available cells, poor ventilation, and too little capacity. Bee hives need the equivalent of two deep brood boxes, or three medium boxes, for adequate brood nest expansion and food stores for the brood. These hives had less volume and no honey supers to accommodate the ample nectar available. It appeared that all of the colonies had swarmed, leaving behind a small remnant of the original bee population.

Strong, healthy honey bee colonies in full-size managed bee hives often contain 60,000 or more bees during the summer. Most of these hives held many fewer bees. Many of the hives’ brood nest boxes contained only three frames with bees and seven new frames of undrawn comb. Were these empty frames recent replacements for diseased frames? The available drawn comb frames were completely honey bound with no place for the queens to lay eggs. While the worn, ill-fitting hive equipment could easily be replaced, the condition of the hives made one question if the colonies carried American foulbrood, a highly contagious, spore-forming bacterial infection. Questionable hives pose too great a risk to bring into a healthy bee yard.

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