What am I seeing???

Discussion in 'General Beekeeping' started by Dbure, Feb 14, 2012.

  1. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    As some of the members here know, we have had an extremely mild winter in Texas along with half the other states out there. I experienced something today however that kinda worries me because of all the warm weather and I am hoping someone with more experience can maybe explain to me what I am seeing.

    The past few days had turned off very cold and we finally got a little snow that lasted for half a day as the rain washed it all away. It warmed up today however and then late this afternoon I noticed that one of my hives had a very large amount of bees outside, say approximating a few hundred. My other hives were not exibiting this behavior so I had to find out what was going on. The temperature I am guessing was about in the mid 50's so it just seemed a little cool for the time of day for them to be out in a large number like this.

    After suiting up I went out there and watched them and they all seemed to be excited and buzzing. A few of them were standing very still on the front of the lower box with their tails extended upward which I take to be a defensive mode??? :confused: Others seemed to be talking to one another and walking all over each other trying to come and go, but none seemed to be bringing back any pollen. One bee I saw was a drone, rather big with bigger eyes but definitely not a queen. So I popped the lid and looked inside and it seems they may be running out of room and food. I am assuming that the queen has been producing due to the warm weather and as more bees have been hatching they have also consumed more food.

    Is this also a signal of a possible swarming that I am seeing? Without tearing down into the brood nest I can't tell what is going on. Is there a signal of this before they do it? Because it was so late in the day I felt they would not swarm yet, but fear that tomorrow when it gets even warmer they may decide to swarm while I am at work in the morning. Since they seemed to be getting a little crowded I went ahead and placed a deep super with some frames on top and moved a frame from below up into it. Tomorrow I will need to get some food in there. With warm temps would it be alright to feed them 2:1 syrup in a top feeder?

    I know this is alot of questions and I appreciate whatever help I can get in understanding this behavior. If things are going well I am hoping to make it through my first winter without losing any of them. :)
     
  2. PerryBee

    PerryBee New Member

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    Hopefully tec will get on here as he is closer to you. Swarming in February? I wouldn't have thought it possible but then I know nothing of your conditions there. The last time we had a warm day, the owner of one of my yards said all 6 of my hives there were flying (cleansing) but one of them had actually formed a beard. It may have just gotten too warm in there and some moved out to create room for ventilation.
     

  3. G3farms

    G3farms New Member

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    You might tip the hive body to one side (leave it on the bottom board, just tip it over a little), look at the bottom of the frames to see any evidence of queen cells.

    now everybody can tell me I am wrong :crybye:
     
  4. tecumseh

    tecumseh New Member

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    dbure writes:
    Is this also a signal of a possible swarming that I am seeing?

    tecumseh:
    since 'the authorities' tell us that swarming preperation begins about 30+ days ahead of it's actually happening... the answer to your question is 'possible' so.

    the hive appears well populated and due to the season short on feed resources. with a large field force they are capable of filling the empty places in the hive very quickly... going from feather light to brick heavy in an incredible short period of time. once congested and the brood nest begins to become backfill this hive most certainly has all the necessary characteristics to produce a swarm.

    intervention is called for here. in the short run (given the limited feed reserves) you may need to feed. you also need (I would suggest at the same time) to add extra space (a super a deep... kind of depends on what you have on hand).

    at the intersection of the first and second box break these and peak at the bottom bars in the second box (I think this is what G3 was suggesting above???). this is typically where you will notice cells at this time of year.

    folks deal with cells in different manner <some of this is somewhat defined by time constraints and purpose. for myself when I notice cells I try to remove the existing queen (if I can find her) in a well populated nuc and leave the cells to do their own thing in the hive's original location.
     
  5. Flyman

    Flyman New Member

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    I noticed the same thing yesterday. I can observe about 25 hives from one vantage point. At one time (about 3-4 oclock) the sun came out, temp warmed and bees came out by the thousands. Of the 25 hives, probably 20 exhibited this behavior. To me, it looked more like pent up orientation flights and exuberation from being locked up for the past 4 days and surviving a 24 degree night.

    However, I did check most of them about a week ago and they were absolutely bursting with brood and new bees. I never did see a queen cell, but did see a LOT of capped drone cells. At that time, I was thinking a few of them probably did have swarming in mind and made mental note to take action. I think the weather may have trimmed the expansive brood nest a little from having brood chilled by our cold night.

    I will check today. If they are still looking strong, they may be a candidate for splits or queen cell starter colony in the very near future :thumbsup:
     
  6. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    Ohh my. Thank all of you for answering. Tecumseh I wish you lived closer to me to see what is happening. It has poured buckets of rain here in the last hour or so and when I got home from work they are all crowded outside on the front as they were yesterday. They appear to be mostly huddled together and still. The other hives are all inside.

    I am headed out there to see what I can do. I don't want to open up the box in this weather but will try and at least get another box ready to catch them if need be. It is wet and the temp is 52. I just pray it won't rain anymore. I'll be back to let you know how it is going. :beg:
     
  7. Iddee

    Iddee New Member

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    It may help if you would add a super on the bottom of the hive for 30 days or so. Then when any chance of a hard freeze has passed, move it to the top.

    Putting it on bottom now will prevent heat escape. They will still have their house in the order thry want it.
     
  8. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    That makes sense to me Iddee. It got dark here quicker than I would have liked with the overcast skies. I don't know if what I have done today is right, but I am sure I will find out very soon. :shock: The bees were clustered on the outside but not in a mass or ball. I figured the queen was not out there with them after close examination and so having the extra box ready would not have helped.

    I went ahead and removed the roof and the bees were all up in the box I had added yesterday to give them more space. I had moved one of the frames from below upward in the middle of the new box and it had little to no food on it. At the time I should have recognized there was a problem. :dash1:

    I figured they were out of room yesterday but should have also realized that meant a lack of food as well, which after another look today seems to be the case. I could not get them to go back down out of the added box and they had been coming through the hole in the inner cover, so I left the inner cover on and placed some damp paper towels around the opening and spread a bag of sugar over it then placed another box on top with the roof on top of that. I hope that will help. It just didn't seem right that they would swarm so early but then I guess if something had not been done it would have led to that.

    Mother nature has been crazy this year. :mrgreen:
     
  9. jim314

    jim314 New Member

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    I've had very much the same weather as you this year. I have one hive that has stayed up at the top all winter long and are always gathered around the inner cover hole for some reason. The other two can't be seen when looking under the top when it's cold. I've kept sugar bricks on all winter and they have gone through them when the weather let's them come on top of the inner cover. I don't think they are out of room, but the hive that has been at the top all winter may fool me. Today, when I came home for lunch, they were out in mass, flying, orientating, and probably pooping after being cooped up for several days. I took a video and I'll post it.
     
  10. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    Hi Jim 314. Your weather should be just the same as mine or close to it depending on what area of north Texas you are in. I know that back in late October there was a full deep super of honey left on this particular hive that I was into today. But after looking at it yesterday there was not as much left in it as I thought. These warmer days are keeping the bees active and eating more. I should have realized this. Even after watching them bring in pollen on warmer days I know that nectar should be non-existent.

    I would like to make some sugar bricks like you are using but felt that plain sugar would be better than nothing so late in the day. Can you tell me how you make them? Hopefully your recipe is not a guarded secret like grandma's apple pie. :D
     
  11. jim314

    jim314 New Member

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    Here is the recipe I have been using. Very easy to make and the bees really like it. Just adjust the time in the microwave depending on how much you are making. I lightly oil paper plates to pour it into so it doesn't stick. Start with the amount in the instructions and then ramp up the time if you are making more. The time depends a lot on the mircowave wattage. But I still only do it in 1 min increments regardless of how much I start with.

    http://www.thebeeyard.org/?p=14
     
  12. Barbarian

    Barbarian New Member

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    For info.

    Bees with their tails up is not a usual defensive stance. Guard bees usually face outward with a pose similar to Tom and Jerry's bulldog (Butch ??) Or was it Sylvester and Tweetie Pie ?

    Tails-up is a stance for exposing the Nasanov gland. The gap between the last 2 abdominal segments is opened exposing the gland and the wings fan air over the area. The scent is a "come home--- we are here" signal. A lot of hive front activity and bees fanning, can occur when a virgin is out on a mating flight. With luck, the returning Q can be spotted.

    I don't think, at this time of year, it was a mating flight.
     
  13. Dbure

    Dbure New Member

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    Thank you Jim314 for the link. It looks very easy to do. :thumbsup:

    And thank you too Barbarian for the information. I was unsure why they were like that, but some of the bees were flying off and some coming back, so from what you are describing they may have been signaling others how to get home. I was worried that a swarm was forming but was confused because of the conditions which it seemed to be occurring under. This morning there were still bees on the outside of the box, but maybe with warmer temps and a little sun today they might warm up. They looked to be frozen in time. I have heard bees will slow down in cold and can come back to life once warmed up so I hope to see that today.