January 30, 2006

Checking on Wilde: Medium 3

layout of wilde colony january 2006

This is an overview of my "Wilde" colony, a hive of bees named after Oscar Wilde. The queen bee of this colony is named Elizabeth.

These honeybees are New World Carniolans, a breed active at lower temperatures and known for beginning to raise brood early in the year.

This page contains pictures taken during inspection of the middle box (or "super") of the colony: a medium super that was last known to contain honey stores put aside by the bees for the winter. This box is circled in gold at left.

Other boxes to visit:


Medium Deep Box Number 3

Wilde colony top of box 3

After removing the feeder and the box with fondant frames, we come to Medium 3, a box that was last known to contain honey stores set aside by the bees. The Carniolans did not fill out all the frames completely: some of the frames had only one side of honeycomb, and in many cases the comb did not cover the whole face of the frame, so this box did not hold as much honey as it could. But did it hold enough?

The sugary lumps are bits of grease patty that got away from me when I was removing the patty they ignored on top of the fondant box. It's hard to see here, but just beneath where those bees are gathered is the top of the "cluster," a formation the bees adopt when the weather gets cold in order to generate heat by flexing their muscles en masse. Carniolans are supposed to have the smallest cluster of all honeybees, so I am now wondering if this group in this box is all the bees there are, and whether this is enough, especially with the current Varroa mite scare.

wilde  box 3 outside left wilde box three outside left west side

This is the left or easternmost frame of the box, and it exemplifies all that I have come to expect from the Wilde colony. The outside has hardly any comb even, and the inside has comb which does not reach the edges, and which has been emptied. This is not comforting. Below, the next frame in, similarly low on resources. The insidemost bit shows just a little honey left.

wilde box 3 second in left wilde box 3 second in left west side wilde box 3 third in left

The fourth frame in had the most honey left yet, and the most bees.

At this point, I believed myself to be getting into the main cluster of honeybees, and beekeepers are admonished to avoid disturbing the cluster, or unnecessarily perturbing the majority of the bees, during any period when the bees opt to form one.

Therefore I stopped pulling frames, and decided to move onto the next box.

If that box contained no honey stores, I was going to have to do some thinking about a feeding strategy to get the bees through perhaps three more weeks, until the maples and other trees start budding and blooming.

Interestingly, some bees in the hive seemed to be carrying pollen in their saddlebags, but Master Beekeeper Bill Troup told me that bored late winter bees will collect anything that even looks like pollen, so I am reserving judgement.


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