I was concerned about my bees taking hold of their new environment in West Virginia. Its been severely dry here, with a drought persisting since late May. There’s nary a flower in the pasture since they cut the field for hay, and though there is ample water from nearby ponds, I was concerned that my ladies would not have enough forage to feed themselves, especially in their ‘start up’ phase, going from nucleus to full hive.
When I checked on them a month ago, I was surprised that they had spread throughout the super from their original five frames to all ten, filling them out with comb, honey and brood eggs. Several weeks ago I added a second super on top, (a new bee box with frames on top of the old one) interspersing empty frames with full ones and was wondering how they’d feel about stretching out even further to this added space. This weekend, I opened them up and found they had been busy, busy, busy little bees. They had drawn comb in the new super and were on track to fill that out soon.
Their consumption has been huge. I had been feeding them sugar water since they moved in, but this was a bit sporadic as I was coming to visit the family in West Virginia every two to three weeks. My bee instructor had told me that one half gallon would do them for a week or ten days, so I thought a double external feeder with combined one gallon capacity would hold them until I returned. However, this wasn’t nearly enough for them — they would go through a whole gallon of sugar water in about one day in the two external feeders. This kept happening over and over again, and as soon as I would fill them, they’d be down and out. I actually was concerned that the feeders were leaking so I took them out and tested them by filling them with water and letting them sit. They were not leaking. I guess my bees are thirsty and hungry during this dry time. My brother and I joked that maybe they are just lazy bees, waiting for the welfare water to arrive instead of going out and finding work.
In fact whenever I inserted the first full feeder, I could almost hear the bees shouting “‘woo-hoo! party time, the feeder’s full!” By the time I inserted the second one, every visible bee a the front was quietly slurping down their nectar.
However, after opening up the hive each time I can clearly see these are no lazy bees. Each time I find lots of comb, honey and brood in the new frames. They must be putting the sugar water straight into their construction process. I’m thinking their extreme consumption is caused by the combination of drought and their need to build up their operation inside the hives.
I didn’t think there was any way I’d need to put on a honey super before early next spring, as the forage conditions were so slim. But my Aunt Jane, a former beekeeper in West Virginia, warned I’d need one somewhat soon. So I’ll get on that.
Meanwhile, I’m just happy that the girls are alright, and curious about what they are finding to eat. Its impossible to follow one out of the hive to see where they are going, and I do not see them around the cottage’s yard at all, but clearly they are finding something. And clearly they know more about this bee business than I do!