With the weather 76 degrees on Sunday, I knew it was time to do an in-depth inspection of my two surviving colonies, the first real inspection of 2011. When I opened the orange hive, I noticed what looked like a tower of bees over the frames in the top chamber. The bees, in their quest to go higher, had started building comb up to fill the space where the shallow super sets and where the bee candy was located. That was my cue to reverse the hive boxes to put the brood nest together and move some frames around to give the queen room to lay.
As I got down into the frames, here's what I found. As you can see, the queen is already busy laying. I found capped brood and larvae all through the frames scattered around the hive, so she's been all over the place. I decided to move the brood frames together in the bottom chamber, while moving the honey frames to the top chamber. This should remedy the urge for them to build up and over the top frames. I didn't see eggs this trip, but I'm very confident the queen is in residence.
Take a look at this frame from the orange hive. You can see that the queen is laying all through the frames, even those that have honey at the top. As I mentioned earlier, I took all of the frames that held brood and combined them in the bottom chamber, then moved the honey frames together at the top. While March weather can be fickle, the long term forecast for my area doesn't show any really severe winter weather, so I think they should be okay. By the way, the orange hive is full of bees. With the warm snap, I figured they will get the urge to build swarm cells soon. Now I'll have to keep an eye on this colony and do a split when I can get my hands on a new queen.
Here is a frame from the green hive. I only found two frames with a small brood pattern, so its obvious that this queen is behind her sister queen in the orange hive. This queen, while robust when she first arrived, has been much slower than the other two colonies. But I have to give her credit that she's kep this colony going although the numbers are much lower than the other hives. I am considering replacing her with a Minnesota Hygienic and using this queen for a nuc. I honestly believe that she can't produce enough to keep the colony going full force, and if I don't replace her, the bees will.
Deciding that I need to "beef up" the green colony, I took one of the many frames of brood from the orange hive, and put it in the green one. I thoroughly shook every bee from the frame and then moved it over to the neighboring hive. The bees in the green hive were still in the bottom chamber with the brood, and there was plenty of honey at the top. Unlike the orange hive, I did not alternate the boxes in the green hive. Instead, I moved all the brood frames together in the lower deep -- adding the frame from the orange hive as a supplement. Now this should help the numbers in the green hive, and I can move more frames from the orange hive as needed.
Once I moved the brood frames together in the bottom deep, you can see that the bees congregated there. And I replaced some of the frames that were above them and unfinished with drawn comb from the yellow dead-out hive. And I have drawn frames that I'll use for my package coming from Dadant this April. It will just be less work for them when they get here and make their home in the yellow hive.
After putting both hives back together, I slid the orange hive over to where the yellow one sat. The returning foragers did a fine job of finding their way home. That's because the bees stood at the entrance and fanned their scent outward to their returning sisters. When I checked a little later, not one single bee was on the concrete blocks wondering where their home went. Overall it was a successful inspection, and I'll keep a check over the next month to watch for swarming indicators. Hopefully I'll be able to make a split before the ladies hit the road on their own!