Second season winding down
Today was a nice enough day that I took the opportunity to open three of my five nucs to do some minor season end things. I had noticed through the observation window that the pollen patty in one was starting to mold so I planned to take that out and also do a bar shift in two of the nucs so that at the end of the season the cluster in both will take advantage of each other's warmth.
A few weeks ago I did a mite check using the detergent wash method on all of my nucs. The results were mixed (2 bad, 2 good, 1 borderline) but now I know what they are and will see how they all do. When I did the check I was able to find only two of the queens so my fingers were crossed that I didn't get them in the tests. I counted each bee so hoped I would have noticed the queen if I got one but still have been a bit nervous about it. This in mind, on my nuc that tested borderline but has my best dispositioned bees I went through the hive and looked for her highness. I went through and saw only a handfull of emerging brood and no larvae or eggs and didn't see the queen. Uh Oh! My heart sank. Did I kill her? The cells in the brood nest were shiny like they had prepared them for eggs so I carefully went back through all the bars and on the second to last in the brood nest...YAY!! There she was, plump and fit. Hurrah! I gave them back their pollen patty (because they didn't seem to want to give it up and they didn't have very much pollen stored), shifted the bars so that the empty was at the entrance and the last full comb at the solid follower, then closed up. This hive body has three nucs in it, filling up almost every bar in the hive. The one I was just inspecting is the one in the center, the one to the right of it has the entrance situated so that when I shift the one empty bar to the entrance end of the hive the honey combs are adjacent to the solid follower that divides the nucs.
The nuc on the right of that hive body is the one that had some white mold growing on the pollen patty. I went in to take it out but the bees were busy on the part of it that didn't have mold so in the end I removed the moldy parts, reopened another entrance hole to give them better ventilation, and let them have it. I moved it to the front of the hive near the entrance holes (where they keep most of their bee bread and where it should get better air circulation) and shifted the bars toward the back of the hive like I intended.
The other nuc that I looked into was the one that had the best mite count. I hadn't found the queen in it when I did the mite count either but since those bees were a little more defensive and I wasn't using my smoker I didn't disturb the hive other than to check their pollen patty. They had eaten about half and were on it so I left it and closed back up. In this nuc I was a bit more conservative taking my bee sample so I am hopeful the queen is in there and fine.
All the nucs are dramatically different from last year's. Last year I battled newbie mistakes and ignorance, a drought, heatwave, poorly laying queen, wax worms, SHB and ended the year with weak hives that didn't make it to spring. I started over with a package at the beginning of April and while I did lose a swarm from it I was able to build it into 5 nucs. I do have one that is weaker than the others (it and the nuc in my original hive have high mite loads so probably won't make it through) but I have three that look really good. The one in the original hive has the highest mite count but they also have the most honey, the others have a bar per each bar in the brood nest plus a good band on each brood bar. I still debate making candy bars for them just in case but for now I am going to see how they do. I will keep an eye on the pollen patties to make sure SHB don't get in them and they don't get moldy. The cold weather that is coming this week should knock back the SHB threat so hopefully they will be fine. Unless I need to take them out or feed them today was my last day in the nucs for the year. I will probably put some insulation over the observation windows and over the top bars but that should be it for winter prep.
To a good winter and bees that make it through and make some surplus honey next year!