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March hive activity

Busy honeybee hiveWhen the sun came out Thursday morning, so did the honeybees.  For the first time this year, they seemed to be deep into a pollen or nectar flow of some sort --- there were aerial traffic jams as the bees piled up, trying to make it through the little hole in the entrance reducer.  Honestly, I'm not sure what their primary food is right now, since I've seen them on the crocuses (more in the embedded video) and on the tiny speedwell, dead nettle, and chickweed flowers in the yard.  I suspect there may be something much larger blooming out in the woods to account for this much traffic --- maybe those swollen elm or hazel buds have burst open?

Honeybee eggsSo much for the outside of the hive --- what's going on inside?  Once the day was thoroughly warm, I went ahead and opened up the hives to see how the end of winter was treating the colonies.  I found tiny white eggs, grub-liked larvae, and capped cells of pupae in two of the hives, along with scads of leftover honey.  I took out the entrance reducers and popped a new super on each hive just in case the bees get really industrious before I check back.

The queens are clearly just starting to lay their eggs, but I saw a troublesome sign in one hive.  The bees had extended three of the larvae's cells out beyond the comb's normal face --- it looks to my untrained eye like they're thinking of building queen cells.  That would mean that I let the hive get too congested with honey and the bees are thinking of swarming.  I'll check on them again next week and, if necessary, split the hive in two to keep all of the bees under domestication.

Small cluster of starved honeybeesI also found a tiny cluster of eleven starved bees.  The poor things were face down in adjacent cells, searching for honey.  I've read that little starvation clusters like this happen when a sudden cold snap strands some of the bees outside the main cluster.  They can't find the frames of honey, even though food can be quite nearby.  Still, a death toll of less than a dozen bees is not bad since most beekeepers lose a third of their hives over the winter.  Our chemical-free hives are still happy and healthy.

We're writing about chicken breeds over on our chicken blog this week.  I hope you'll drop by and put in your two cents!

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