The winter of 2013/14 is perhaps the coldest winter I have ever experienced in my life. Bees in the area were hit hard. 60% of the colonies in Ontario did not make it Relentless cold temperatures meant very few cleansing flight days till April.

hives after the ice storm

hive covered in ice

By the end of April this was our only viable colony left. A few other colonies made it into spring, but there populations were to low to reproduce. They were not in great shape though. No cleansing flights meant lots of dysentery in the hive to clean up. Below is the small cluster of survivors on April 21st.

They did have a lot of honey left in the nuc adapter box, as well as the top warré box where they were clustered. So as they spring nectar flow started, we harvested the honey left in the nuc, and added in warré frames containing honey from their neighbour hive which did not make it through the winter. Thus the transition from langstroth to warré was complete. In retrospect it probably would have been better to have removed the transition box before winter, or have insulated it better. It wasn't designed with the same thickness of wood as the rest of the hive, and I believe it did not help conditions in the hive over such a cold winter.

Where the cluster finished the winter, and started to raise brood was on a frame that was only about half worker cells, and one of the adjacent combs didn't have any worker cells. I suspect this further slowed their spring development. It also suggests that I need to be more strategic when using natural comb in anticipating where the cluster will end up in the spring.

 

queen on brood frame

We moved the brood box to the bottom, and tried to place more appropriate comb near the brood nest as best we could. They expanded the brood nest upward by late may, and it was the middle of June before they had 5 frames in the second box and one below.

view of brood box from top

By the end of June the population was starting to look a little more reasonable. 

bees covering comb in box

With solid patches of brood:

Comb mostly covered in capped brood

They were starting to fill in what space was left around last falls honey in the top box, it was hot,  a strong flow was on, so we decided to add a new box. We were eager to take advantage of what we feel is probably the best time of year for comb building, and wanted to reorganize them onto a more compact brood nest. We tried to sort the best brood comb into the bottom two boxes with 6 new frames for them to draw. We moved combs that were not primarily worker comb to the new box in the 3rd position with two new combs to draw.

Our Next check was July 11th. Perhaps we were a bit hasty with adding the new box, or at least it was too soon to intersperse empty frames into the brood nest. There was loads of caped honey in the top box, and some new white white wax:

but in the bottom box there were no eggs where capped brood had hatched and the new combs were not significantly built. There was a fair bit of pollen though and still a bit of capped brood.

They had prioritized comb building a little more in the second box, and we did see some eggs in here.

new comb

3rd box had a fair bit of brood, but some capped honey and nectar up her too.

 

August 19th

Did very little in the new nadired box and have not continued using the combs we had moved down.

IMGP2127Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

IMGP2130Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The second box has some brood.

IMGP2131Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Some frames a mix of half brood and half nectar.

IMGP2133Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Interesting to see very steep angles on some of the nectar cells. A quick look in the 3rd box showed brood with eggs and young larvae. Checked one frame in the nuc. Seem like it's probably all capped honey.

Hive is perhaps a little feistier than average. The entrance reducer was removed completely.

September 1

The goldenrod and knotweed were in bloom. The fall flow probably been going about a week at this point.

honeybee on goldenrodPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

honeybee and japanese knotweedPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Four combs and a little bit drawn in the bottom box. Loaded with nectar.

September 8

The knotweed is fading fast but still getting a little attention:

knotweed flowers attracting a honeybeePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The goldenrod is still plentiful:

hill of goldenrodPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Some mint, russian sage and butterfly bush holding out too:

butterfly bush and a beePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The caryopteris appeared:

Honeybee on CaryopterisPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

and I found bees on the larger patches of New England aster:

Honeybee aster and CN tower 2Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: All Rights Reserved

The bottom box still had a good amount left to draw. About five and a bit established. It had nectar and even some honey. I moved one blank frame between started comb.

new combPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Checking a few frames in the second box showed pollen on the east edge:

pollen framePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Other beekeepers in the area are telling me the drones are getting the boot or that they are at least no longer raising new ones. These bees are still raising drones the next comb over from the pollen frame:

drone broodPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

I've found accounts of darker bees staying in the hive into winter. The reason these bees are keeping drones longer than other colonies is probably genetic.

The following frame contained large amount of capped worker brood.

The third box is starting to fill up with honey:

mostly honey and nectarPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

but the queen is still managing to slip some brood in here:

young broodPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Also some drones still emerging up here:

drone brood being backfilled with nectarPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

emerging dronePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The lang frames in the nuc box are well filled with honey:

packed full of honeyPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Spotted one drone with a possible mite wound.

injured dronePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Otherwise the bees looked healthy and plentiful but still quick to grow agitated during an inspection.

Interesting to see the bees seem to heavily favour the side of the entrance that was never blocked by the reducer even though we removed it weeks ago. A few checks ago I started to use a stick to hold the wood block that I use as a 'portch' in place. It had been moved. I suspect skunk or possibly racoon.

The entrance became much more active just before I left, when the mid-day shade passed. With the few hot days this summer brought now behind us, the shade is likely a bit of a detriment now.

July 20th

The bottom box had four combs started and one little bit. They built  perpendicular again on the east side of the hive near the entrance. The seed frame was hatching out but no other new brood. One frame  was well on its way to becoming honey.

The middle box had a good mix of capped and some young brood and eggs.

The top box had its west most frame on its way to honey, the middle two still had loads of capped brood with some honey.

August 4th

It was a windy day and the hive still seemed fairly quiet by 11 am

The top warré box:

IMGP1948Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The bottom warré box:

IMGP1950Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Both boxes had loads of brood and a small amount of pollen and nectar.

IMGP1949Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

All frames were significantly drawn, but leaving a bee space at the bottom bar of the frames.

I nadired a new box with two seed combs (one from each box above). I didn't check the conversion box with the lang frames.

July 4th

Cycling down to the bee yard with two of my hive boxes strapped to the back of the bike.

Bringing new hive boxes on the back of my bikePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Lots of thick capped comb can be seen from the top of the nuc box:

sun hive nuc box from abovePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Still some brood up here, but it's quickly turning into a honey box:

IMGP1749Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

IMGP1748Photo by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

Down below, seven of the eight frames had a good amount of comb built:

seven combs startedPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

It's possible the rate of comb building is starting to slow since previous checks.

The comb that had been veering crooked last check, turned out pretty straight, just a little twisted bit in the middle:

formerly twisted comb turned out pretty straightPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The first frame of comb seeded into this box is now loaded with capped brood:

the original seed combPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

You can also see that the broken bits of comb left on the bottom board are still being used to hold nectar in the above photo.

We seeded a new box with comb. We're hoping the bees will keep comb building a priority.

It seems like the constant mix of rain and sun has made for strong flows good for wax building. I figure there should be at least a week or so more before the main flow tappers off.

June 29th

After the slightly crooked comb from last week I worried and decided to do a quick peek stricktly to make sure the combs looked okay.

I took out the second frame from the side and was surprised to see it had a little bit of comb on it. So surprised in fact that it broke off as I pulled it out. This is much to my regret as I'm very anxious for them to have a more substantial number of combs to work with. On the bright side the warré box does now still have six straight combs well on their way. At least one even had capped brood.

Comb building well on its way in the sun hivePhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

The combs furtherest out from the middle are starting to protrude a bit beyond the top bar, but it looks like this box may turn out nicely.

What I'm noticing is the bees will start the comb on the very bottom of the popsicle sticks that I am using as comb guides. This means the comb is rather fragile till they extend it upwards onto the top bar. I used rather wide popsicle sticks, in the future I should probably consider using narrower ones so the combs will be stabalized onto the top bar sooner.

One or two bees were spotted on some near by milkweed.

Honey bee on milkweedPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

and a few bees, not sure if they were mine, were seen about 1 km away on clover.

Honey bee on clover in trinity-bellwoodsPhoto by: Shawn Caza / CC: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License

There's some clover very close to the hives too but I haven't noticed any bees on it. Maybe they've already exhausted it by the time I get there?

The lindens / baswwod have also started to bloom, but I'm yet to spot a bee on one.

 

2

June 12th

We got a bit of a deal on a nuc for what we will name the sun hive as the frames were being held together with frame savers. The frames had formerly been in a nine frame box and some of the honey comb was drawn out thick. One frame also had a fair bit of drone comb. All four frames were full with either brood or food, it seemed to have a very strong population of bees and we spotted a very dark queen.

As we are not using foundation, we used a level to make sure the hive was not tilted. The idea is this helps to ensure straight comb. We also used an 'eke' (a small spacer box) to make room for a feeder container. We gave them about 500ml of 1:1 sugar water. We put a little wooden raft in the feed container to help prevent drowning.

feed eke and level

We placed one of our warré frames in the nuc to get them building on warré sized frames right away. Even though I had built a five-frame nuc box adapter, it was a tight fit with the thick honey combs on the lang frames. So we trimmed down one comb and let a good amount of honey pool on the bottom board.

placing the warré frame in the nuc

We transported the hive with the wide opening on the bottom board for maximum ventilation, but we forgot to flip it when setting up at the destination. We still added reducers to the entrance while they build up.

lots of bees and the entrance reducers

June 19th

They built a fair bit on our warré frame in the nuc and we saw eggs and larvae.

new comb drawn in lang nuc for a warré

We cut the wires and moved it down into the warré box. We started another warré frame in the nuc for the moon hive which unexpectedly received five lang frames and didn't have space for our extra empty frame.

They had cleaned up all the spilt honey and taken all the sugar water.

empty feed container with bee float

We didn't add any more feed. The orientation flights seemed to have ended, and we saw a steady arrival of orange as well as pale yellow pollen coming in. We also noticed honey bees on mint not too far away. With this in mind we decided to see how they will do with just the natural forage.

Honey bee drinking mint nectar at the music garden

June 23rd

That frame continues to fill out nicely and even contains some capped brood.

starting to cap brood

They also started two more combs on either side of this frame. Hooray! One frame had three distinct comb segments, with the one in the middle veering perpendicular to the frame. We had to trim it down very slightly, but were able to bend it back straight without doing much damage. We then put it between the other two started frames.

twisted comb

These combs had every last available cell full of eggs or some food. We also spotted our queen down here.

Up in the nuc box, the frame for the moon hive had been started and contained eggs. We took it out and gave it to the moon, leaving just the 4 lang frames in the nuc box.

Comb started for the moon hive