Pollen collecting has hit a new peak this week! It appears the dearth is nearly over and their favorite flowers are in bloom. This little lass (and a bunch of her besties) are all over the neighbor's Virgin Bower vine. The vine has been growing up our fence (we don't mind since the flowers are so lovely) and just started blooming recently, making this beautiful white cloud of teeny, fragrant flowers. The bees hadn't been interested in it at all really until today. This morning I popped out to find our girls clambering all over the flowers, picking up loads of this lovely white pollen. It's nice that they have such a short trip - maybe all of 15 feet!
In other hive news, Axiom is growing leaps and bounds. Queen Eva (formerly queen Zelda before she followed a frame over to the nucleus hive) is producing eggs like a rockstar. The hive is really strong and healthy to the point that I even pulled the entrance reducer today. Last inspection, we swapped the two boxes top to bottom since they seemed to not be utilizing the bottom box as much. They still have space to grow a bit in the bottom box, so there's no need to add a third box up. In that bottom box, we found an old frame (one of the original four from our starter nucleus) that they had completely emptied and left alone. The comb had turned this manky brown color (normal for old comb), so we yoinked that frame and gave them a fresh wax and wire foundation frame to work on. Typically, when wax gets old, you're at risk for wax moths infesting the frame since they prefer old wax, so it's good to see that they cleared out the frame on their own accord and let us pull it. I figure we can try to harvest the wax and filter it to see what we can do with it.
Hive Hyrule's first queen rearing was unsuccessful. Typically a queen should emerge, be mated, and start laying within 30 days time. When we inspected after a full month had passed, we found no queen and the bees were making a very agitated buzzing sound. You could tell just from the sound alone that something was amiss. We pulled a few frames and found that there were no eggs, but they were making queen cups which is pretty much the signal that they don't have a queen. We transferred a frame of eggs from Axiom into Hyrule and let them start again. Within a week, we had capped queen cells. I think by next week we're hitting the month mark, and we should see eggs (hopefully) but we have no idea what happened to the first queen. I had seen some dead virgin queens outside the hive, but that's normal since there can be only one queen and the victor goes about knocking off her other queen sisters until one remains. Best we can figure, and apparently it's fairly common, is that a bird made a snack out of her on her way home from a mating flight. I read that it's about 1 in 4 queens that don't make it home for whatever reason. Being so late in the season though, this is our last chance to make the hive queenright. If this queen fails to take, we'll have to recombine the hives or purchase a queen. The way to recombine the hives is by placing a sheet of newspaper between the two colonies. By the time they've chewed through the newspaper between boxes, the pheromones the queen gives off should equalize and allow the two colonies to coexist instead of trying to murder eachother. Purchasing a queen can be tricky since they tend to come from the south and may contain some Africanized genes. Our gals are so docile that the last thing I want is to introduce bad DNA into the mix which is why we're leaning more towards recombining the hives if this queen doesn't make it.
Looking forward, we need to check Hyrule for signs of a laying queen, make sure Axiom is stocking up for winter, and do an Oxalic Acid treatment for mites. Varroa is a huge problem and probably the single greatest cause of hive loss over the winter, so we want to make sure the girls are going into winter healthy. We decided on the Oxalic Acid vapor treatment after a seminar by our local beekeeping club. The other treatments seem to be so harmful (and expensive) but the OA treatment is quick and easy and doesn't bother the bees at all. After three weeks of one application per week, the mite population (if we have any) would be decimated. I can go into deeper detail when we do the actual treatment, but talking with the club beekeepers, this really seems like the way to go. Also looking forward, if Hyrule is indeed queenright, we may try to harvest some honey off them! If the flow is good this fall, hopefully they can fill a frame or two for us. We had been feeding the girls sugar syrup over the past month, but with the foraging activity going on right now, I have to hope that they'll be able to provide us with a modest honey harvest.