Since this has been my first winter keeping bees, I was a little anxious about the bees surviving. They went into winter with pretty meager stores. The winters here in NC are pretty mild and short though. Being mild, I hoped the bees would be able to break their cluster at times and get some sugar syrup I left them. It seems to have worked, and both hives are doing quite well.
I haven’t posted much because I have been busy with other things, but I have made the time to check on them a few time. They were out collecting pollen as early as Jan (on warm days). I’m am not sure what they were finding in bloom, but there must have been something. I have some pictures from Feb of the bees coming in with pollen.
Even though we had some warm days, I didn’t want to open the hives that early. I waited until last week before opening the hives. A week ago I opened up hive # 1 and was pleasantly surprised. Not only had they survived, they already have some capped honey that wasn’t there last year. Good busy bees. 🙂 They also have pollen stores that I am pretty sure are new. Clearly they are finding something even this early. I was also very happy to see a good amount of capped brood. Here is a picture of one of the combs.
This is only a guess, but I think the open area (the circle at the upper left) may have been where some earlier brood was raised that has batched already, and the capped brood in a wide ring below that was laid a bit later. Throughout the inspection, the bees were very calm. It got cloudy and was looking like it was about to start sprinkling though, so I closed everything up and decided not to check hive #2. I had brought some sugar syrup to help them build up (not knowing they had found as much as they had this early). I went ahead and left both hives some syrup.
Today I went back to check on hive #2. I first check on the sugar syrup, and neither hive has taken much at all in the last week. I assume that means they have been able to keep busy collecting the real stuff. 🙂 Judging just from the entrance traffic, hive #2 seemed a little weaker than hive #1 the last few times I had check on the bees. When I opened the hive up, they too have capped honey and pollon stores, but not as much as hive #1 (I’m still happy with it though). They also have capped brood.
Overall, hive #2 seems fine too, but maybe a little behind hive #1 in building up. I did see a couple of small hive beetles in both hive, but no visible damage. Hopefully, a healthy hive should be able to keep them in check. I’ll have to keep an eye out for varroa problems this year too (last year I didn’t find any problems, but I may not be as lucky this year).
The follower boards are still in place with a few open bars for the bees to expand. I haven’t seen any sign yet of new comb production. I haven’t decided yet whether I would want to disrupt the hive structure by introduce empty top-bars between bars with comb to try and stimulate comb production. I wouldn’t want them to build up and run out of comb to use and have them swarm. I’ll have to keep an eye on the situation and hopefully move the follower board back before too long.