What a gorgeous afternoon to spend at the apiary!  It was wonderful to share it with Sadie and her partner Waylon, Kathleen Robinson and my friend Andrzej (who took some amazing pics – see at bottom of post!) and his family (all the way from Arlington!).  It’s always a curious adventure and we were not disappointed with the findings –- some good, some not.

Andrzej and fam, Sadie and Waylon

First the highlights:

I have a small but healthy hive– I’d guess about 40,000, with decent honey reserves in the top hive body, and some pollen and brood as well.

The bees were active, healthy, and no sign of the varroa mite (wheh!) or wax moth!

happy, healthy ladies

healthy honey reserve - double-sided

This is good!

BUT – Now come the low points…

As I was rearranging the hive bodies I had a chance to inspect my screen bottom board (the bottom of the entire hive structure) – and noticed what appeared at first to be small pebbles.  How did those rocks get in there – by an intruder (i.e. rodent?)  Nope… Sadie came over and told me it might be chalkbrood… urghh… really?!?

stonebrood

So… what is that?  Well – the little pebbles are actually mummified larvae that the bees clean out of the comb – called either stonebrood (hard pebble like larvae – caused by the fungi Aspergillus fumigatus and Aspergillus flavus – which is what mine were) or chalkbrood (more chalky/crumbly larvae – caused by the fungus Ascosphaera apis) – both are caused due to a high moisture content in the hive.  I am guessing it was my late autumn feeding that contributed to this as I introduced an insane amount of moisture with my syrup (usually having a minimum of 6 24 oz. jars in the hive at a time).  Considering I stopped feeding a while ago the moisture levels may have returned to ‘normal’ – because I didn’t notice anything amok in the hives – and there was only a small amount of the pebble/mummified larvae.  I’m a polyanna, though… and think the best.  But – there is nothing I can do about it – supposedly it corrects itself if it is a strong hive – and I trust my ladies have everything under control.

I am also a little concerned about the lack of honey reserves and activity in the bottom hive body – there is a lot of empty comb… ripe territory for an intruder or pest.  So I switched the hives – and placed the heavy healthy one on the bottom and moved the light /empty one to the top.  I’ll go out in a few weeks to see if the top is still empty (and by that time looking a little more sinister).  If so, I’ll just consolidate the hive to one deep frame for the winter and keep a close look out in the early spring (February) – when the queen starts actively laying her eggs again and will need more room to expand.

By mid-December I plan to feed the hive fondant.  I’ve never made fondant before… so I anticipate the ‘cooking party’ will be chock-a-block with ridiculous mishaps – and, of course, chaotically fun!

Enjoy these last few days of beautiful weather!

Andrzej’s photos:

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