Bees: Time for an Early Season Tune-Up

| 1/21/2015 9:57:00 AM

The mountains are not just snowcapped, but are covered well down into the foothills. However, even here in the High Desert of Oregon we’ve had a few days in the low sixties and more are in the forecast for the next ten days. It’s given me a chance to take inventory of my hives without going deep into them. If there is no wind, this kind of weather allows you to have a quick peek inside without harming your bees and you should be trying to get an idea of each hives health when the weather allows.

For example, my biggest two hives and by that I mean these hives are full of bees, just as if it was midsummer, have stores but will likely run short. I have already taken one frame of honey from a deadout and placed it one of these hives. The hive had two frames of honey stores remaining, but they were to the outside of the box. I did not want to leave the hive open long enough to pull frames and rearrange them, so I simply slid a middle frame out and dropped in the new frame of honey. That way there will be food right in the middle of the cluster should we get a hard freeze again that prevents them from moving about.


A quick examination of all my hives was done by removing the lid and inner cover to gauge how many bees the hive had and what level of stores were present. We are approaching the time of year when bees are lost simply because they run out of food and starve. A responsible beekeeper should know the condition of his/her hives as soon as the weather allows. Remember, the bees that have made it this far are bees that have won the battle. They survived whatever mite load was in the hive and the diseases they bring, and they also survived our sub-zero temperatures. If your girls have enough feed or even if you need to feed them for a while, these bees are going to be what you enter the season with if they don’t starve before the first spring blooms arrive.

I began the winter with twelve hives on this side (east side) of the mountains. Those hives on the west side of the mountains will soon get their own inspection. Of the 12 on the east side I have lost only three and one of those was a nucleus I bought last spring that clearly came with a massive mite load. This only serves to reinforce my belief that you are your best source of bees. (We will discuss making splits and increase at another time.) Locally, one friend of mine lost all three of her hives this winter and another friend lost two of his three hives. So I feel pretty good about only losing three hives out of 12.

With only one exception, all the hives that remain have healthy numbers. The hive that does not was an experimental split I did late in the season. Two hives have huge numbers for this time of year. If you were to look at them you would think of summer time numbers. Both of these hives are Carniolan bees and they come from a split I made in mid-May. A split is your best natural mite control and these hives show it! As a result of the split, both of these hives have young queens and though my inspection did not take me deep into the hive I would not be surprised to find the first little bit of brood here.

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