Oh my goodness! Paula and I went to check on the bees today and we have three really strong healthy colonies. Colleen's Royal Ruckus, The Turquoise Bee and Katrina's Drone Den, all packed with bees in all three boxes. We have had an amazing Indian summer, warm days even up until now. Lots of local beekeepers are reporting loads of pollen coming into their hives. I didn't see the bees bringing any pollen in today but there was lots of new pollen in the top boxes of all three hives. The finding is sort of a mixed bag for us as we have a major problem with the comb in our brood boxes, all of them.
You see in our over zealous effort to keep recycling our combed out brood box frames we seemed to have overdone it by at least a year. I didn't realize that while reusing comb is a good idea, it is only good for two, maybe three years. Our comb is four years old. You see if the bees are storing pollen collected from anything treated with pesticide then they are storing toxic waste in the hive which is what they feed the brood. Additionally the comb gets brittle and old. Frankly I think this may have been part of our problem this year with a poor honey harvest. Well that and the long cold wet spring and summer. In a perfect world our plan was to remove all those frames and start anew next year but I can't see my way to figuring out how to do this with hives that are busting at the seems with bees. Perhaps in a month or so the population will die down and we can do some of the replacement work. Otherwise we will have wait until spring and figure it all out then.
The sad news is that Patrick's Pollinator has died. When we reached the bee yard it was evident that something wasn't right. There was a flurry of activity outside every hive except for Patrick's Pollinator. On closer inspection we found a pile of dead bees outside the hive and evidence of Nosema, a disease that causes dysentery or bee diarrhea if you will. We saw streaks of bee waste outside on the top box of the hive which is sort of a dead give away.
We have not had nosema before so it is sort of a bummer to find it now. It is contagious and it contaminates the comb so we took apart the hive today and will get rid of all the comb. Once we got to the bottom of the box we found a large pile of dead bees and what looks like dead larva but we are not sure.
This is never ending adventure in which we learn something new with every visit to the bee yard. It continues to be full of astonishing surprises, utter disappointments but mostly giddy joy. We put all our mouse guards in place and don't plan to visit again until mid november. Hopefully by then we can remove the top brood boxes off Colleen's Royal Ruckus and Kattrina's Drone Den and make an effort to over winter these girls.