Wednesday, March 23, 2011

First Spring Inspection!

Robert lighting the smoker
Late March in Western Pennsylvania looks pretty bleak to us, but the bees are very active as they build up for the spring nectar flow to come. Whenever the weather warms up even a little bit, foragers are out collecting pollen and nectar from the maples and other early flowering trees. Inside the hive the queen is ramping up her egg laying as the nurse bees feed and warm the voracious larvae.

We took advantage of a sunny, calm Sunday afternoon to open up some hives and see how are bees are progressing. While Jennie took photos, we were joined by Nick and John, new beekeepers getting their first experience dipping their mitts into boxes full of bugs with stingers.

Nick gently lifting a frame from the deep
A strong colony of overwintered bees!
A bit of smoke blown into the entrance of the hive disables the guard bees' alarm system. This keeps the bees docile as we pull out the frames.

Nick inspecting his first frame

Here we have Nick inspecting his first frame. We are looking to see if the queen is alive and laying well. We don't have to actually find her, we can infer her presence by finding eggs and larvae. We are also checking to see if there are any diseases and if the colony has plenty of stores.

Puffy cells above are capped brood
We did spot the queen in one of the hives. Can you find her? Hint: look in the center right of the picture below. The queen has been marked with a light blue dot of paint on her thorax. You can also see clearly how much longer her egg-filled abdomen is than those of her daughters.

Can you find the queen?

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