swarm season begins

We finally had a break in the weather, which coincided with some sure signs of swarm season:

The bees won’t raise a new queen unless they have drones.  She won’t get fertilized on her mating flight if there are no boys hanging around the Drone Congregation Zone. Looking into the TBH/Warre mutant hive I saw fully formed drones on the combs and this weekend it was nice enough that the boys were out flying.  The big fat incoming bee with the long legs is a drone, as is the one that is head down ready to launch from the entrance.

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Seeing this, and that the bees were starting to expand well into the horizontal section of the hive, I added a second warre ‘super’ (the new bright looking box) to give the bees more room.  This may postpone swarming for a while, if not prevent it, by giving the workers plenty to do and the queen more room to lay.  I didn’t see any queen cells when I clamshelled the box, so hopefully they are not overcrowded yet.

The apple trees are at the pink bud stage (forgive this blurry photo), cherries and bradford pears are in full bloom, and the maples are also just starting.  I never noticed a maple tree flower until I started keeping honey bees, they are fairly inconspicuous.  I usually breathe a sigh of relief when they bloom, as I figure my hives have safely overwintered and there is now enough forage about for the bees to access easily, as there are maples everywhere and they are a significant nectar source.  I think much of the new wax combs of spring are made with maple nectar at least around here.

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The temps were in the high 60’s, the rule of thumb is the queen won’t fly below about 68 degrees.  Sure enough, the one dead out hive I had this year (one of the Warre’s out at Big Table Farm) had a swarm move in on Easter morning.  Thank you Easter bunny!  My friend Matt also had his first swarm call of the season on Easter as well.

Speaking of easter bunnies, Snacks kindled last week.  In the past she has been the big litter bunny, this year she decided to start off the breeding season in a low key way, with just two.  This is what a bunny nest looks like, she pulls fur from her double chin and her belly to keep the babies snug and warm (this also makes it easier for the kits to nurse):

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I think both of these bunnies will be black, I will take pics of them when they are fully furred and hopping out of the box on their own next week.  They are waaaay down in there, snug as snug can be.

The other kits are growing like weeds, they eat about 25# of feed a week right now, plus hay and grass and garden vegetables.  Momma is still nursing them, she looks like she is being mauled by a gang of teenagers when she does.

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Happy Easter, Happy Spring!

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