Bees in a drought

Well, even with some record heat and a good drought, the bees are still hanging on here in there. Both hives still appear strong, but have all but halted brood rearing I think. The last time I did a full check, the was some brood but almost no honey stores. I haven’t done a full inspection since then, but yesterday I did pull out a few combs to check.

One of the first things I always look at when I get to the hives is the front entrance. Its interesting to see what the bees are doing there and watch them work. Sometimes there are lots of bees hanging out there, sometimes just a few. Interestingly, hive #2 almost always has more outside on the front of the hive. A week ago, there was probably the largest number I have seen hanging out on hive #2. In adition to the face, they were also covering the underside of the roof overhang and getting into the “attic”.

Sometimes they are washboarding, sometimes not. Before I do anything else, I always just watch for a few minutes at each hive to see what I can observe. I always feel good seeing bees coming and going. Even now in a drought, I can still see bees coming in loaded with pollen (orange and yellow). I obviously can’t see if there are bees coming in with nectar, but I assume some are since I see a good number coming and going (they are probably also bringing in water due to the heat). Here are what the entrances looked like yesterday. (hive #1 on the right, #2 on the left)

Since they were so low on stores, I have been giving them sugar syrup each week when I go out to check on them (usually every weekend). I make 1×1 syrup using 6 cups of sugar and 6 cups of water. I’m not sure of the exact volume that makes, but I split it between the two hives. Its always gone when I come back a week later. When I checked back on a Wed. on week, it was gone then too. They are obviously taking it pretty fast. I was just hoping that it was at least covering their energy needs for the week. When I pulled a few combs from hive #1 yesterday, it does appear that they are storing some. This means that even though they are taking the syrup quickly, they are storing it and it is at least lasting until I get back the following week. Here is a picture that shows some syrup in the comb (you can see the wet reflective look). I was also able to see the queen (I just got lucky she was on one of the combs I pulled).

I’m happy to know that they aren’t starving. They will definitely need much more stores before winter, but I’m hoping we get some rain here at some point and maybe get a fall nectar flow (there is some goldenrod blooming now). If we don’t get any good flows, I’ll have to feed them to build up winter stores before winter (I think what I am doing now is more like subsistence feeding).

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3 Responses to “Bees in a drought”

  1. Mark Says:

    Have you done a sugar roll to check for mites recently? Have you decieded how to treat this Fall?

    I just got a bucket of formic acid pads. (mite-awayII) You are welcome to a couple if you want to go that route. It is usually cool enough to use them by mid October here, so I plan to sugar dust a couple more times until then.

  2. kawayanan Says:

    Thanks for the reminder. I have been meaning to do a sugar roll for a while. I think I will try to do one this weekend.

    I had though a bit about what I would treat with if needed. Formic acid would be my top choice I think. It does have some specific temperature requirements, right?

    I’ll contact you when I do the sugar roll and see what the situation is.

    How is the Venable queen and hive doing?

  3. Mark Says:

    The Venabee’s are doing great. They are in a deep now. We gave them a super of honey and some pollen to keep them happy. Queen Venable is as calm and sweet as she was the day we met!

    Yea, the formic acid will cause brood damage if the outside temperature goes over 82 F. Treatment time is 21 days with highs between 50-79 degrees F. That’s why I’m going to continue the p.s. dusting, and hope for rain and cooler temps.

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