Honeybees and Russian Sage

Wayne and I both adore Russian Sage and have it planted in clumps in front of the house.  I walked out the door to the car yesterday and one sage group was literally alive with bees.  It sounded like the plant was buzzing.  I stopped and sat down on the pavement for a minute or two just to watch the bees jump from flower to flower.  They are fast moving and a bit hard to catch, but I did get one shot of a bee at work.

Honeybee enjoying Russian Sage

Happy Sunday and enjoy your week!


Bee update: Her majesty makes an appearance

Part of our big plans for the weekend included a much-needed trip to the land to inspect the new hives.   It was a beautiful day although rather warm and I wasn’t looking forward to a long stretch in a very hot bee suit.  It was also threatening to storm.  As we got out of the car we could hear thunder rolling, so we knew we might have some slightly unhappy bees.

Here are the hives when we arrived.  All appears well from the exterior.

Bee Hives

The blue hive (on the right) had quite a few bees hanging around on the entrance.

Blue Hive

On the other hand, the brown hive (on the left) didn’t appear as populated.

Bee HiveWe started by opening the blue hive.  We removed the top super being more interested in the state of the brood box on the bottom.

Brood Chamber

After pulling out a couple frames, it became clear that the hive is doing well.  The brood frames had good, consistent patterns.

Brood FrameThis frame clearly shows the pattern you normally expect.  It’s a football-shaped brood pattern surrounded on the exterior by pollen and honey.   The frame does appear a bit spotty (see the empty ring around the middle brood?), but the queen could have been working on it as we pulled it out.

Brood FrameOnce satisfied with the state of the brood box we moved on to the super Wayne added when he dropped the hive off.  We immediately found a problem:

Foundation Problem

This is what the frame should have looked like:

Wired FoundationSo, we’ve once again proved that unwired foundation is not an option for North Carolina.  Even in Morganton it is just too hot for the foundation to remain upright long enough for the bees to work on it.   We pulled out any foundation that was laying down and left the bees empty frames.  In the meantime, I’ve ordered more wired foundation and when it arrives we’ll switch out the frames that they haven’t touched.  I’m hoping this doesn’t mean they’ll miss the bulk of the honey flow.  They need to store as much as possible in order to survive the winter.

We closed up the blue hive and moved onto the brown hive.  As soon as Wayne lifted the top we we both recoiled.  Ugh.  Ants galore.  It was worse than the infestation we found at the house hive.  We had to take a brief interlude while Wayne pulled off his bee suit and removed the hundreds of ants who felt like his veil was an appropriate place for them to choose as their new home.

You can see how the bees have started to close off the screen opening to keep the ants from entering the hive.

Ants on the TopcoverFor lack of a better option, we doused the top cover with water and then rubbed it on the grass to relocate the ants.

Like before, we pulled off the top super and opened the brood box.  Because of the slight delay due to the ants, I pulled frames and Wayne took pictures.   I was surprised to see that they are storing honey in the brood chamber.  This frame was toward the end, so I wasn’t too terribly disturbed by it.

Honey stored in the Brood Box

I then pulled out a frame toward the middle hoping to see brood only and I wasn’t disappointed.  To my surprise, I also caught a glimpse of her majesty!  She is bright and beautiful.  You can see her below just below and to the left of my hive tool (click on the picture for larger view).

The Queen BeeHere’s a slightly closer shot as she scooted around the frame trying to get out of the light.

The Queen BeeAfter we got a few photos of her, I carefully put back that frame, anxious to get it in place without hurting her.  I did pull out another frame or two just to take a look.

Brood Frame

Slightly strange – it appears that the queen is laying brood faster than the bees are able to draw out the frames.  As you can see here, the right side of the frame is just foundation and the remainder is filled.

Brood in Undrawn Foundation

The super in this hive appeared quite similar to the other with quite a bit of melting wax.  Neither have stored much honey or pollen probably due to lack of room.  We’ll have to remedy that as soon as the wired foundation arrives.

We added an extra super to each box all the same.  If they decide to get ahead of themselves and start hanging foundation from the empty frames they will have lots of room in which to do it.
Bee Hives when we FinishedBefore we left Wayne took a minute and used his scythe to try to mow a bit around the hives.  This will hopefully prevent additional ant problems.

Mowing around the hives

Over the next week or so we plan to lay down a weed barrier and either mulch or gravel to keep the grass from taking over the hives.   We were very glad to see the girls are doing well.

I’m finding it a bit hard to talk about and keep track of the hives since they have never been officially named.  I was considering choosing constellations and assigning one to each hive.  Any thoughts/comments are appreciated.