Cool Weather Bearding?
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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Cockeysville, MD
    Posts
    12

    Default Cool Weather Bearding?

    I am in Maryland and we have had cool, rainy weather the past 2 days. I observed a small cluster of bee bearding, or what I believe to be bearding, outside my hive. There were a few bees also outside the cluster that were barely moving & appeared nearly dead. And, a handful of dead bees on the top of the hive & on the landing board that I brushed off. Any ideas of what this might indicate? Or whether I should adjust my hive? The high today was about the mid-50s with rain, low 50s when I visited them at 7 p.m. Tomorrow will also be about 51-53 degrees with rain.

    I'll return to check on them on Sunday, when the weather should be in the low 70s & sunny. A fellow beek did tell me that when in doubt, give it a few days & see what happens. So, I know patience - at least until Sunday - might be the best answer here, but any additional insight would be appreciated.

    Photos attached.IMG_1218.jpgFullSizeRender.jpgIMG_1222.jpgIMG_1221.jpg

    A few additional notes:
    - I receive the nuc for this hive around April 8th.
    - On May 2nd, I observed 7 capped queen cells in this hive - prior I had been in the hive on April 27th & had not noticed these cells.
    - Under the advisement of other area beekeepers, I am only visiting the hives to feed & am otherwise staying out in order to let the new queens develop, mate & start laying. Hopefully.
    - The 5 new frames in the brood box (added with the 5 frames that came in the nuc) had not been fully drawn out yet as of May 2nd.
    - Due to the numerous queen cells in the box, I did add a medium box with 10 un-drawn frames on top of the super, in case the cells indicated that they needed space. I thought it could help prevent a swarm if that was what was going on.
    - Despite no nectar flow, I had stopped feeding the bees around mid-April due to ants & it also seemed like they weren't eating much.
    - They were incredibly aggressive when I checked them on May 2nd, I believe due to lack of a queen & possible robbing. I resumed feeding & have returned every other day - every 3 days to check on the feed. I've been doing 2 parts water to 1 part sugar in a pail feeder.
    - I last visited them on May 9th (today is the 12th) to change out their feed & did not observe this behavior.

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  3. #2
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
    Posts
    473

    Default Re: Cool Weather Bearding?

    That's not bearding. Bearding is at the entrance. (unless there is a top entrance there that I cannot see)

    Did you check that little cluster for a queen? There's gotta be a queen in there.

    Maybe it is a tiny virgin swarm cast. You probably should've pinched all but two of the cells in order that you don't loose any bees to after swarms. (future note)
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

  4. #3
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Cockeysville, MD
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Cool Weather Bearding?

    I thought there might be a queen in there. But since it was so cool & the bees outside the cluster were so lethargic, I didn't want to disturb the cluster & risk knocking her off if she was in there.

    How would you recommend I check? Just reach my hand into the cluster & pick it up? Would it be wise to check tomorrow if the rain breaks or wait until Sunday when it's warmer? Will the cool temps kill the cluster?

    If she came from one of the cells in either of my hives (I have 2 hives & both had multiple queen cells at the same time, based on advice, I think all were emergency cells - see attached pic), I'd think she'd have a couple more days to emerge. I think they were capped sometime between April 27th & May 2nd, unless there were any additional cells in there that I missed, which definitely could be possible!

    FullSizeRender.jpg

  5. #4
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
    Posts
    473

    Default Re: Cool Weather Bearding?

    Brush the cluster into a small cardboard box and then do whatever necessary to move the bees around and try to locate any queen.

    I don't think that small of a cluster that has been sitting there for that long will be able to regulate it's own temperature very well.

    It takes about 8 days after capping for a queen to emerge. And then a bit of time before she can fly.
    http://www.bushfarms.com/beesmath.htm

    I don't have a ton of experience, so I hope someone qualified can chime in.
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

  6. #5
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Location
    Cockeysville, MD
    Posts
    12

    Default Re: Cool Weather Bearding?

    UPDATE: I returned to the hive this morning with a shoebox & duct tape. The small cluster was a wet mess & the bees had died overnight. They had fallen onto the landing board. I went through the cluster looking for the virgin queen & was unable to find her -- although that doesn't mean my eyes didn't miss her.

    I am hoping she isn't the queen from my hive who perished during her mating flight. So my goal next week is to go into my hive & search for a virgin queen.

    But, if anyone can advise on what to do if this happens again, I would appreciate it!
    ------------------------------------------
    Yes! I hope so too! I do appreciate your input.

    If there is a queen, I'm guessing the next step would be to go into the hive & see if I can locate the queen & if I cannot to put the queen from the cluster into the hive?

    I'm also thinking that if it is a virgin queen, she could be the one that got kicked out of the hive. Correct? And, if that is the case, do I let her go?

    Temperature-wise, it would be wise to wait until it warms up on Sunday to do that, correct? So basically, I've gotta get that cluster somewhere warm enough that it can survive today -- if it survived last night. I live in a townhouse, so no garage or other enclosed storage area. So I'm thinking get them into a shoebox, duct tape it up & bring it inside ... not sure how my husband will feel about that!
    Last edited by KMack; 05-13-2017 at 07:51 AM. Reason: Update

  7. #6
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Location
    Washington, USA
    Posts
    473

    Default Re: Cool Weather Bearding?

    Your best bet is the to find out what happened in your hives. That small cluster of bees with a possible virgin queen is most likely (hopefully) inconsequential.
    Somebody forgot to give my bees a copy of the book.
    Zone 6B

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