Sunday, March 2, 2008

Strengthening a Weak Colony Part 2

I checked the weak colony today which was featured in the first part of this series. The queen is fat and she is laying eggs!!! This is definitely a good thing. The old bees just were not able to raise any brood on their own and needed the help of a new generation. The two main reasons I feel that was causing this colony to fail was underpopulation and and not enough bee bread from last year. The bees have to have the bee bread to eat so they can produce the royal jelly for their young. Without it the older wintered bees can not raise their replacements and begin to die out. After the population gets small enough the queen along with her remaining subjects will freeze to death when it is cold enough outside. They can't stay warm enough to survive within the cluster when there are not enough bees. If I would not have intervened this colony would have been doomed. I might put this colony into a two story nuc box. It might fare better from being in the smaller space and then I can put it back into the full sized equipment when it is strong enough.

The picture below is looking down into the lower hive body of the weak colony which now is not so weak.

Here is a picture of the queen. She has fattened up once again and is laying eggs. She is laying eggs in the empty cells between the capped brood. This was one of the frames that were donated to the colony. Almost every empty cell represents a new bee which has emerged and joined the colony in the past week. I suppose that since the bees cluster on the capped brood to keep it warm that this was the most reasonable place for her to lay the eggs to keep them warm. If you click on the picture you can see the eggs in the cells, they are left of her. It looks like she just made it over this side of the frame as there were eggs on the other side and another frame.

I must say that I feel much better now than I would have when I discovered this colony had died out. If you can take about fifteen or twenty minutes to devote to a weak colony you can save it. I don't know how much money you make but I'd rather spend about fifteen minutes to save a colony than up to one hundred dollars or more to replace it because I let it die out. It's so easy to do a first year beekeeper could do it if the read the first post, Strengthening a Weak Colony."

I took some pictures but they were not very good. Hopefully these two pictures here will suffice for now. I'll be sure to keep you updated on this weak colony as it gains in strength and population.

Waggle Dance

The waggle dance is how bees communicate with one another to share information to the location of a foraging source. The food source could be pollen, nectar, water and even place trees from which to make propolis. The dance is an effort to recruit other foragers so when they leave the hive they can make a beeline to the source without having to waste time searching themselves for some forage. The waggle dance is very complex for a human to understand but bees can comprehend the directions from it easily. The length of the dance, the speed, and movement of the returning forager on the comb all give the foragers being recruited information to the location of the resource. The "map" that is given by a dancing bee comprises of the distance and direction from the hive. The angle to the sun is used for direction and the bees change their dance through the day to compensate for the sun's movement thought the sky. To learn more about the waggle dance visit NOVA Online to view "Dances With Bees".

While looking in one of my colonies today I noticed a bee doing a waggle dance. After closer inspection of the dancing bee I noticed her pollen baskets had some pollen in them. This is the first sign of pollen that I have seen this year. Pictured below is a frame that has the dancing bee on it. It is the blurry bee. The camera wasn't fast enough for the movement of the waggle dance so the bee appears a little blurred. You really need to click on the picture to enlarge it to get a better view.

What I like about the picture is the five bees crowded together directly behind the dancing bee as in they are there in an effort to observe the waggle dance to get the directions. You can also see the yellow pollen on the dancing bee's hind legs if you look close enough.

In this next picture you can see by the blur that the dancing be is really getting with it. It looks like she is swinging her abdomen out farther in this picture. The other bees had to move out her way and are watching her from the side now too.

I put out some syrup feeders in the yard yesterday for some communal feeding. I also put out some dry pollen substitute. I have read that dry feeding pollen substitute will encourage or stimulate bees to gather pollen. From what I observed yesterday I can say this is true. While I was walking around the yard there were little powdered bees everywhere that were hovering low to the ground. I believe they were looking for flowers to gather pollen from because they looked just like they do in the summer when working the clover. They have not acted this way before I put the dry pollen sub out for them, or at least since last fall. It seems that one of the bees were stimulated enough to go out and bring in some natural pollen.

Thanks to the waggle dance I now know I have some pollen in the area for my bees. And thanks to you all of you who read my posts and click on the advertisements, I am a little bit closer to being able to get the new camera I need so I can take higher quality pictures to put on here for you to see. So thank you and give me a click so we can have some better pictures sooner.