Today I visited my Ada apiary to do a full inspection and add additional supers if needed. I am currently down to only 2 hives at this location. My dad came along to watch from the truck and see what I was going to be doing.
I brought along a 5 frame medium nuc box just in case I was able to do a early split. I was not able to do so today, but I am happy I brought the nuc box. The nuc box turned out to be the most important piece of equipment I brought to the apiary today.
The 2 hives that made it though the winter consist of 3 medium 10 frame boxes. Both hives had plenty of stores in the top box the last time I did an inspection. However, the hive on the right did not seem very active today, while the hive on the right was booming with activity. There turned out to be a very clear reason for this.
When I opened up the left hive, I found the top box was full of honey that had not even been touch yet. The second box showed 8 frames of honey, with two frames in the center which looked to have had been full of brood, but now had only a spot on the two facing comb sections that was about 4 inches in diameter. The brood was worker brood, but the bees had filled in everything else with honey. The bottom box had honey and pollen in most of the center frames, but the outer frames were empty. The number of bees left in the hive probably would not have amounted to much more than 2 cups of bees.
I was not really prepared for this condition. The hive basically made itself honey bound during our really early spring, and the queen had been confined to the center two frames in the second box. At first I started to make up a 10 frame nuc, but realized that the number of bees would not be enough to raise or defend the hive. I had not been into the second hive yet so I did not know what I would find.
This is were the nuc box I brought to the yard came in handy. I put the small amount of brood that was in the hive into the nuc box, along with an open comb for the queen to lay in, and the rest frames of honey and pollen.
Now that I had this hive consolidated down to a weak 5 frame nuc, I broke open the second hive. What I found was a brood nest filling 8 frames in the top box, a similar situation in the second box, and a completely empty comb in the bottom box. I sadly found a large population of hive beetles in the bottom box. There were bees covering most of the bottom frames and they were doing a good job of keeping the beetles in the corners. I did have a beetle blaster trap in each hive. I ended up putting both into this one. They do work, but there needs to be at least one trap/box.
I used the abundance of brood and nurse bees to help boost the 5 frame nuc I had made up. I found a frame containing all capped worker brood and a few open cells with eggs and larvae. I checked for a queen before adding the frame of brood and bees to the nuc. I then checked another two frames for the queen and making sure she was not on those frames, I shook an additional two frames of bees into the 5 frame nuc. I hope this will allow the nuc to take off.
Hive 1 was reduced down to a 5 frame nuc with bees and brood added from Hive 2. A boardman feeder was also added to the front of the nuc. Hive 1 did have small hive beetles and evidence of varroa mites, white residue in several open cells along the bottom of frames that had previously housed brood.
Hive 2 contained a good amount of drone cells and drones. The drones were raised along the bottom of frames between the third box, and the second box. (hive was 3 mediums hight). A good number of drones were active within the hive. No queen cells found. Bees appeared healthy. Top and bottom boxes were reversed as the bottom box was empty of stores and brood. This gave the hive drawn comb to store honey or expand the brood nest. A 4th medium box containing new frames of RiteCell foundation was added to the hive. It is hoped that this will be a honey super. (The Bottom Box contains the older combs from the 10 frame nuc it was started from last May).
Hives 1 and 2 contain carnolian bees from Ohio Queens raised at honey run apiaries.
Hive 1 has a marked queen and she was easily found. She was the second queen I marked last year.
Hive 2 does not have a marked queen. I have yet to see the queen in this hive. Eggs and open brood seen during this inspection.